5 Exercises & Tips to Lower Your Anxiety Before a Big Exam

For many of us, college was absolutely the best time in our lives. The freedom and friendships made those four years incredibly special. But college isn’t all sparkles and unicorns. For others, college is a completely different and often negative experience.

As fun as it can be, it’s also incredibly stressful, especially when it comes time to take an exam. The bigger and more important the exam is, the more we tend to suffer from anxiety, and the less likely we are to do our best.

If this scenario sounds all too familiar to you, then use the following tips and exercises to help lower your anxiety before the next big exam you take:

1. Breathe Deeply

When we feel fear, our body can go into an adrenaline-fueled panic mode. This chemical and physical reaction is how our ancestors survived numerous threats. But in this state, our minds do not function properly. In fact, they often go completely blank.

When we take slow, deep breaths, we help our bodies go from the survival response to a relaxed response. This helps the blood flow back into our brain and helps us focus on the task at hand.

2. Change Your Perspective

Most of us think of tests as something designed specifically to trick us. The truth is, if you have studied and are totally prepared, then the test is actually an opportunity for you to show off how much you know.

The other truth is your professors WANT you to pass. When you pass, they look good. So stop going into the exam with a negative attitude and go in feeling confident and knowing your teachers want you to do well.

3. Start Strong

To set the right tone for the test, scan it to find those questions you are 100% sure about and answer those first. This will help you feel confident and put your mind into a free-flow thinking state.

4. Be Realistic

What is your history of taking exams? Have you generally done well in the past? Are you a good student that makes an effort? If so, remind yourself of these facts. It’s easy to have dramatic and unrealistic ideas floating around in your head right before an exam. Thoughts like, “I’m gonna fail and then I won’t pass the class and I won’t get my degree and will end up working at Starbucks the rest of my life if I’m lucky.”

This likely won’t happen so don’t make an already stressful situation worse by being unrealistic.

5. Exercise

Exercise the morning before your exam. This will not only release built-up tension in your muscles (make sure to stretch after your workout), but it will also release “feel-good” endorphins that will put you in a better frame of mind.

 

If you would like some extra help handling the stressors of academic life, please reach out to me today to schedule an appointment.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201502/test-anxiety-quick-tips

https://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/20-effective-ways-to-calm-your-nerves-before-an-exam/

Don’t Get Mad, Get Involved: Helping Your Child with Class Behavioral Issues

No parent likes hearing that their child is acting out in class. At first, most of us want to blame ourselves and figure out what we’ve done wrong. When we come up empty, we tend to put the blame on our child, and sometimes we even get angry.

The truth is, parents do the best they can and so do their children. There are a myriad of reasons why children act out at school.

Big Changes

A divorce, move to a new city, or death in the family are big life events that are hard on everyone. This is particularly true for young children who do not know how to express their feelings and have not yet developed coping mechanisms.

Sleep Issues

Has something happened to interrupt your child’s sleep patterns? Are they not getting their naps? Are they waking up frequently during the night from noisy neighbors or growing pains? Even adults act out when we don’t get proper sleep.

Self-Esteem Issues

Children develop self-esteem issues for different reasons, but one of the ramifications is changes in mood that can lead to disruptive behavior.

These are some of the reasons why your child may be acting out in school. But now the questions becomes, what can you do about it as their parent?

Talk to Your Child

First, see if you can pinpoint the cause. If it’s not something already listed, do some digging. Take your child to the doctor. Is their hearing and sight okay? Do they have any GI trouble? Are they being picked on? Are they getting enough exercise? Talk openly with your child and ask them what is going on.

Set Boundaries

If your child has never had any problems acting out in the past, they may not be clear on what is and is NOT acceptable behavior. Make it clear what you expect from that at home as well as school.

Seek Counseling

You may be able to identify and solve the issue yourself. For example, if your child was frustrated from their poor eyesight, a trip to the eye doctor may quickly solve your problems. However, if the behavioral issue stems from a big life change or poor self-esteem, you may need the assistance of a trained behavioral therapist.

If you have a child who is acting out in school and are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

Sources:

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-behavioral/2018/07/8-reasons-why-your-child-might-be-having-prolonged-behavior-issues-that-arent-concerning/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/parenting-tips/2012/07/7-hints-for-setting-boundaries-with-your-kids/

https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/children-medication.aspx

Breaking the Ice: Tips on Making Female Friends at Work for Women

When we’re school aged, it’s easy to make friends. But as adults, women can sometimes feel on-guard around other women, especially in the workplace, and friendships can be harder to foster. Not only does this lack of friendship make going to work each day feel more challenging, but studies have found friendships, or a lack of friendships, has a big impact on our overall health and well-being.

Here are some ways you can foster real friendships with other women at work.

Make it a Priority

It’s easy to tell yourself you’d like to make friends with the women you work with but following up on that impulse takes real effort. The journey of friendship is one you must commit to and nurture. Ask a coworker to lunch, compliment someone on the fine job she did, and invite others into the discussions you are leading. Each day make it a priority to build a closer relationship with the women you work with.

Focus on Quality Not Quantity

Depending on how many female coworkers you have, you most likely won’t be able to make real and lasting friendships with all of them, and that’s okay. This is not a popularity contest where you try to get everyone to like you. This is about seeking out women with whom you have a connection and putting in the effort to form a lasting bond.

Expect Some Rejection

The truth is, there’s not a whole lot of difference between romantic dating and platonic “dating.” You may feel a connection with another woman at work and ask her out to lunch. She may say no and say it again and again.

Don’t let any form of rejection stop your efforts. Just as no one at work really knows your inner life and feelings, you don’t know anyone else’s. Some women may simply be in a bad space in their life and don’t have the energy to connect with a new person. That’s okay. Move on and keep trying. Eventually you will make a true and lasting connection.

Keep the Momentum Going

Once you’ve had that initial lunch or get-together, keep the momentum going. Building a relationship is like building a fire. It takes a bit of work to get that kindling to catch, but once it does, the bigger flames come.

Like anything else in life, friendships require our time and attention, but when you consider the value and meaning they bring to our life, they are worth the extra effort.

 

If you’re looking for some expert guidance on navigating the unique stressors of your work or personal life, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/03/04/women-report-increased-discrimination-from-workplace-queen-bees/133258.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/working-btches/201308/why-are-some-women-nasty-other-women

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201605/10-ways-make-and-keep-friendships-adult

How Joining a Local Sports Club Could Support Your Mental Health

Whether you like to play soccer, basketball, or softball, joining a sports club is a great way to stay fit and make new friends. Not to mention, a sports club membership can also support your mental health beyond these benefits.

While exercise is known to improve cardio health and help you build strong muscles and bones, exercise can also alleviate symptoms of depression in the following ways.

Endorphins

You have probably heard of endorphins. They are the “feel-good” chemicals your body releases after exercise, among other times. These neurochemicals have been shown to help boost mood and give us a sense of well-being.

Increased Energy

One of the most common symptoms of depression is fatigue or a lack of energy. A person may feel tired and sluggish all the time, even unable to get out of bed. This can exacerbate the depression because there is now guilt and low self-esteem associated with not accomplishing enough.

Exercise rejuvenates the body and gives it energy to combat any fatigue you may have been feeling.

Improves Your Identity

When we commit to an exercise plan, we feel good about ourselves. According to James Blumenthal, a neuroscientist at Duke University who specializes in depression, “One of the positive psychological benefits of systematic exercise is the development of a sense of personal mastery and positive self–regard, which we believe is likely to play some role in the depression–reducing effects of exercise.

Why Joining a Sports Club is Better Than Joining a Gym

How many of us at some point in our life have bought a gym membership and then not gone to the gym? Plenty!

The great thing about joining a sports club is that it is incredibly fun and social, so we are more motivated to participate. This is the key when it comes to reaping the mental health benefits of exercise – sticking to it!

If you have been suffering with symptoms of depression and have been thinking about joining your local sports club, I encourage you to do so. Ask around town to see what groups may be available. You can also do a quick Google search to turn up clubs in your local area.

If you would like to explore treatment options for your depression, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/exercise-to-improve-your-mental-health/

https://psychcentral.com/blog/another-reason-why-exercise-benefits-your-mental-health/

The Benefits Of Exercise For Depression

How to Help Your Child Balance School and Extracurricular Activities

There was a time when young kids went to school, came home and did a little homework, then went outside to play with their friends. Their schedules were open and easy for them to handle.

Nowadays, more and more young kids are involved in so many activities they don’t seem to have time to play in the backyard. On top of school, many kids are involved in two or three team sports, music lessons, and church activities. These kids often struggle to keep up with their school & extracurricular activity load and find themselves anxious and having trouble sleeping.

Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, believes that enrolling children in too many activities is a nationwide problem. “Overscheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, it’s how we parent today,” he says.

“Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities. Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive.”

Kids Want to Please Their Parents

While we may think we are doing our kids a service by signing them up for activities we think they’ll enjoy and will build character and confidence, we must understand that they may not want or be able to handle so much.

Some of us may look back on our own childhoods with regret and dismay and vow that our kids will have more. These good intentions often turn into childhood nightmares for our kids. We mean well, but it’s just too much for them to handle.

Here are some things parents can do to help their children balance their schoolwork and extracurricular activities:

Lighten Up

Parents need to lighten up and remember that childhood is supposed to be fun! There will be plenty of time to be serious when they are adults. Try to put less pressure on your child to achieve something grand, and spend more time making happy memories together.

Understand the Benefits of Self-Direction

Independent work and play times are highly beneficial to the developing mind and ego. Alone time also helps children process their experiences and de-stress.

Talk to Your Child

You won’t know if your child is struggling to keep up with his or her activities unless you talk openly with them about it. If some activities need to be removed from the schedule, work with your child to figure out which one(s) to keep and which to let go.

 

Extracurricular activities like music, arts, and sports can definitely play an important role in your child’s development. Just make sure your child does not become overwhelmed by too many activities.

If you’re looking for an expert to help your child manage their stress and avoid becoming overwhelmed, please reach out to me today.

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200301/the-overbooked-child

https://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health/balancing-school-with-extracurricular-activities.aspx

Finding the Balance With After-School Activities

The Mental Health Dangers of an Over-Stuffed School Schedule

For their children to succeed as adults, many parents think they’ve got to be involved in numerous extracurricular activities. Perhaps we believe this abundance of activities will foster a sense of pride and accomplishment. But is this excessive involvement in activities doing more harm than good?

According to a study published in the journal “Sport, Education, and Society,” the social demands of an extracurricular-heavy schedule are not only placing an unprecedented strain on families, but also potentially harming children’s development and well-being.

The researchers interviewed 50 families of primary-aged children and found that 88% of the kids were involved in extracurricular activities four to five days a week. These activities were the central focus of family life, especially in households with more than one child. As a consequence, families were spending less quality time together and children were exhausted.

The researchers from the journal “Sport, Education, and Society” were quick to warn parents of the potential negative impact of an over-stuffed school schedule: “Raising awareness of this issue can help those parents who feel under pressure to invest in their children’s organized activities, and are concerned with the impact of such activities on their family, to have the confidence to plan a less hectic schedule for their children.”

Helping Your Child Find a Balance

In order for extracurricular activities to do more good than harm, parents have to make sure family time takes precedence. Here are some ways you can help your child find a balance:

Let Kids be Kids

Make sure there is enough non-structured time for kids to express themselves in creative ways. This freedom allows children time for the joy of self-discovery. Adult-organized activities can restrict this natural inclination.

Recognize the Importance of Family Time

As I mentioned, the study found that too many kid activities lead to a major strain on family time. Other studies have shown the importance of family bonds to a child’s development and well-being. While you may initially feel hesitant in taking your child out of some of their activities, just remember the benefits of spending more time as a family.

Talk to Your Child

Don’t decide which activities stay and which go without first getting input from your child. He or she should be able to help decide the activities that bring them the most benefits and joy.

 

Nowadays, kids and adults can find themselves juggling way too many responsibilities. It’s important for all of us to slow down, relax, and spend as much time as we can as a family. If you’re looking for an expert to help your family come together again, please reach out to me today.

 

Sources:

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/05/15/too-many-extracurricular-activities-for-kids-may-do-more-harm-than-good/135388.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/12/01/parents-should-not-put-too-much-pressure-on-kids/113269.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200301/are-we-pushing-our-kids-too-hard

Why EMDR is a Helpful Treatment for Sexual Abuse Survivors

In the United States, one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). When sexual abuse happens, many people don’t know how to cope with the event or express their feelings in a healthy way. The result is a life of feeling fear and shame as well as experiencing depression and anxiety. NSVRC reports that 81% of female victims and 35% of male victims will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is EMDR and How Can it Help?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a psychotherapy technique that has been successfully used to treat people who suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, and other emotional issues. Before EMDR, these issues would be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy alone. While this treatment can be successful, it often takes many, many sessions for maximum relief.

EMDR, on the other hand, has been considered a breakthrough modality because it can bring quick and lasting relief from a variety of emotional distress.

When we experience trauma, such as sexual abuse, the natural coping capacity of our brain becomes overwhelmed and we experience the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Through EMDR therapy, people can reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disturbing to them or disruptive to their lives.

What is a Typical EMDR Therapy Session Like?

While EMDR will use an integrative approach to therapy, it also focuses on some unique techniques. In particular, the patient will perform a series of lateral eye movements while, at the same time, focusing on various aspects of the traumatic memory.

These left – right eye movements form a “bilateral stimulation. The therapist may use other bilateral stimulations including alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the patient’s hands.

It is believed that EMDR induces a fundamental change in the circuitry of the brain, similar to what happens during REM sleep. This helps people integrate and understand memories within a larger context of their own life experiences.

But EMDR is more than a set of techniques. It is a way for all people to understand their own human potential. Beyond the reprocessing of traumatic events, EMDR also allows individuals a glimpse of any limiting false beliefs they may be holding onto, such as “I’m not good enough.”

In this way the therapy not only helps people move through big, traumatic events in their past but also smaller chronic ones that color their perception of themselves their world. This can ultimately lead to significant positive change in their lives.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse and is interested in exploring EMDR treatment, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how this technique may be able to help you.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201303/trauma-childhood-sexual-abuse

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/complex-trauma-emdr-can-help-but-its-no-quick-fix-0425165

https://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/

 

Swiping Left: Tips on Dealing with Unwanted Romantic Attention Online

Many of us are all too familiar with this uncomfortable scenario: someone initially catches your eye, but for one reason or another you lose interest. After letting them know you’ve changed your mind and are no longer interested, they keep messaging you. Or perhaps you’ve never been interested in someone, but they seem to think you’re wrong about your own feelings and keep trying to persuade you otherwise. Dealing with unwanted romantic attention online can be annoying, anxiety-inducing, and harrowing in many ways. Here are some precautions you can take to do the best you can to avoid these kinds of interactions.

Look for Friends

If you’re just looking for friendships to start off, then make it clear from the beginning that you’re not looking for a relationship. Any woman can tell you that this doesn’t always work to dissuade a persistent harasser, but it’s a great place to start covering your bases.

Start Out Incognito

Don’t give out your cell phone number to anyone you haven’t met in person. Use a Google Voice number or use another messaging app that doesn’t show your phone number and has a blocking feature just in case. You can also get a special email address just for dating.

Don’t tell people where you live or where you work. You can tell them what you do and what city you live in but keep the details to yourself.

Go Somewhere New

When you meet, don’t take them to your favorite spots. Take them somewhere you’re unlikely to return so you don’t run the risk of bumping into them if you have to break things off.

If You’re Just Not Interested

If things aren’t going well and you need to break it off, it’s important that you’re very clear with the person that you’re not interested in pursuing anything romantic with them and don’t want to talk to them anymore. Don’t try to “drop hints” or sugar coat your message. All this does is create wiggle room for the perpetrator to start thinking that “maybe there’s a chance.”

Instead, be direct, and be honest with how you feel. As you’re letting the person know you’re not interested, make sure your message ends with a “final goodbye” at the end. “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested at all,” or “I don’t see this going anywhere romantic. Good luck.” Attempts to take the sting out of your message with emojis or compliments will only muddy the waters and your suitor might take this as a cue to amp up his pursuits.

Stop Responding and/or Block

If they keep responding to you, ignore them as best you can despite how tempting it is to respond negatively. Don’t agree to be friends. If they continue to pester, block their number. Do not answer calls, respond to texts or agree to meet for closure, to return items, or any other reason.

 

It might seem cold or cruel, but it’s not. It would be cruel to both of you to continue any sort of relationship out of guilt or a sense of duty. It’s better for both of you to move forward and find the right match.

Are you searching for a relationship and need help navigating the single life? A qualified mental health professional can help. Call me today and let’s set up a time to talk.

Is Casual Sex Good or Bad for Your Mental Health?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 data, the average age of marriage in the country is at its highest: men’s average age at first marriage is 29.8, while women’s average age at first marriage is 27.8. As the gap between adolescence and marriage widens, uncommitted sexual encounters are on the rise.

Call it a one-night stand, a hookup, “friends with benefits,” or “Netflix and chill” – all these terms are synonymous with a casual sexual encounter, which according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Sex Research has had a modest increase in frequency since 1988. As casual sex grows in popularity, the question of its effects on an individual’s mental health are a subject of debate and conflicting data.

Several studies conducted over the last 10 years have shown inconsistent results. Some studies indicate that most individuals report an increase in self-confidence and a decrease in depressive symptoms after casual sex, while other reports indicate the exact opposite. The only consistent findings in these studies has been that, despite what might be commonly believed, women were not more likely to be negatively impacted by casual sex encounters than men.

While there are no clear indicators on whether casual sex is good or bad for your mental health, there are several factors that may play a part in how it could affect you individually.

Religious Beliefs & Upbringing

If you were raised with a strict upbringing or with strict religious beliefs that have resulted in your association of sex with shame or guilt, you may be negatively impacted by a casual sexual encounter.

Motives

If your motives for casual sex are, for instance, to get back at an ex or to please another person, this may result in a negative impact. On the other hand, if your motive is for the pleasure or fun of it, or to explore your sexuality (in other words, for your own sake), you may be less likely to have negative feelings afterwards.

Consumption of Drugs or Alcohol

Consumption of drugs or alcohol can lower your inhibitions and potentially cause you to make regrettable decisions such as participating in unsafe sex, or choosing a partner that you otherwise would not choose. It also can cause you to have gaps in your memory of the experience, or not remember it at all.

 

There is no definitive right or wrong answer on how a casual sexual encounter will affect your mental health. Every individual is unique and complex, and how your mental health may or may not be affected is exclusive to you. It’s up to you to decide what will or won’t work best for you.

Do you find yourself questioning your sexual behavior, and need someone you can talk to about your thoughts and feelings? A licensed mental health professional specializing in sexual issues can help. Call my office today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

4 Steps for Setting Academic Goals with Your Child

When children are taught how to set and achieve goals, they learn that decisions have consequences and that hard work earns rewards. As your child sets and works towards academic goals, their self-confidence will grow, and they’ll take pride in themselves and their achievements. They will learn how to focus, how to prioritize, and ultimately how to make better decisions.

Step 1: Explain

To take advantage of all that goal-setting has to offer, start working on this with your child as soon as they’re old enough – typically around age eight.

Explain to your child what goals are. Describe how people achieve goals as a result of a great deal of hard work. Help them understand the long-term importance of academic success, no matter what field they should choose to go to in the future.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Your child may or may not be aware of their own academic strengths and weaknesses. When setting goals, remember that it’s important to keep them specific, realistic, and attainable. Academic goals can include achieving certain grades in certain subjects, staying focused in class, or completing homework at a certain time.

Be sure to stay as quiet as possible while brainstorming, allowing your child to come up with their own ideas. If their goals are unrealistic, steer them toward something more achievable. If their goals are too big or long-term, help them break it down into a first step toward the long-term goal.

Step 3: Track

As author Harvey Mackay once said, “A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” Once your child has decided on a couple of goals, write them down and track their progress. You may wish to break each goal down into achievable, specific steps, each step with its own deadline. Set aside a block of time on a weekly or monthly basis to check-in on your child’s progress. Make the check-in is special to help your child stay motivated and focused. For example, you can take them to lunch at the park or a favorite restaurant. Discuss their progress, help them with any difficulties they may have and remind them why they set their goals.

Step 4: Celebrate

Celebrate when your child achieves a goal. It can be an outing, their favorite meal, or a small gift. Then, work with them on setting the next set of goals. Even if your child didn’t meet their goal, likely they learned some lessons and made some progress along the way.

Remind your child that failure is something every person experiences in life: we don’t always achieve the goals we set. Sometimes our biggest success comes by learning from mistakes and trying again. Encourage your child to never give up on dreams that are important to them.

 

Does your child need help achieving academic success? One of our trained professionals can help them accomplish their goals. Give our office a call at your earliest convenience to set up an appointment.