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Get Registered Today: Teaching Elementary Students About Self-Love Will Change Their Lives!

If I told you to describe yourself in 3 words, what would you say? Growing up, I would have said “shy, kind, and lonely.” Only one of the three words were positive. Why? Because elementary school was a time where other kids started teasing each other for all the things that made them “different.” Today, the things that make me different are celebrated by me and so many others, but back then, the criticism, teasing, and judgement broke me down.

In third grade, I had to get eight teeth pulled, because I could not lose my teeth and instead had two rows of teeth. People called me “sabertooth and can opener,” which made me feel like something was wrong with me. It was not anything I could control. I was not doing anything wrong, yet people made me feel so different, like an outsider. I was also very passionate about reading, which made me a “nerd.” Other kids laughed at me and called me names for always having a book in my hand. My love of reading is an important part of my success today, but back then it felt wrong for being interested in escaping through stories.

Why am I telling you this? Because kids can be mean, and other kids can develop insecurities that make them afraid to be who they are. So many of us grow up feeling like we must hide a piece of ourselves in fear of others not understanding or judging us. And so many of us carry these insecurities throughout our lives preventing us from finding pure happiness, fully connecting in our relationships, and being true to ourselves, our goals, and our needs.

I developed a workshop titled, “Learning To Love Yourself” for Elementary Students in grades 3-5 to help them learn to love every piece of who they are despite what their peers or society tells them. We are surrounded by other people’s opinions and social media has influenced the way we perceive friendship, validation, body image, and happiness.  If I could go back in time, I would do anything for someone to have taught me about ways to show kindness and love to myself rather than attack myself for not measuring up to expectations others have or society has created. And I would do anything to have had the tools I needed to cope with the insecurities, because we are all vulnerable to them, but they do not have to overpower our minds if we know how to manage them.

Therefore, this workshop is broken down into five sections, based on my workbook, “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook.” The sections are Affirmations, Choosing To Love Yourself, Emotions, Coping Skills, and an Emotional Wellness Toolbox.

Section 1: Affirmations.

Affirmations are a form of self-talk. Automatic negative thoughts pop into our heads. It is normal. But do they need to be the only voice we hear? No! We can use affirmations to combat those negative thoughts. We can reframe those negative statements:

 I am not smart enough to pass this math test. à I am studying as hard as I can, and I am doing my best. I believe in myself and know I will give it my all. No matter what the outcome is, I am proud of myself and my effort.

I am not a good basketball player. I suck and it is my fault my team lost the game. I let everyone down. à I am training and constantly bettering my skills. I can and will grow my talent. Every game I do better. I know I will score a basket next game.

The section ends with the youth participant working with their adult attendee to develop 3 affirmations they can tell themselves every day. Then, practicing saying them out loud in breakout rooms.

Section 2: Choosing To Love Yourself.

Choosing to love yourself means prioritizing yourself. We are taught that loving and prioritizing ourselves means we are selfish. That is a huge misconception! When you love yourself, you trust yourself, give yourself a break, celebrate yourself, listen to how you feel, say no if you do not feel comfortable, and stand up for yourself. By teaching youth how to love themselves, we are teaching them to be aware of their feelings, acknowledge their achievements, have patience with instead of criticizing themselves, respect and enforce their boundaries, and advocate for their needs.

This section ends with the youth participant working with their adult attendee to identify ways they can show themselves love, why they are proud of themselves, and why they love themselves.

Section 3: Emotions.

Everyone has emotions, in fact we all experience the same emotions in different ways. We all feel happiness, sadness, gratitude, anger, etc. The difference is how we express ourselves. Sometimes, anger can come out in breakdowns or violence. By learning different ways to express our emotions, we can find healthy ways to feel without holding it in or misplacing it in inappropriate situations.

This section offers the youth attendee a space to express different emotions through art, music, and entertainment, while sharing additional ways they can express themselves like verbally, writing, and movement. We may not always be able to find the words to express ourselves, but we still deserve a way to communicate our emotions. This section helps form different ways of communicating that we are not ok!

Section 4: Coping Skills.

Coping skills are the tools we use when we feel overwhelmed by emotions to manage them. As you know, we all have emotions, and we all feel overwhelmed sometimes. That is ok! But there are also things we can do to get through those times. Even if you feel not ok, you do not have to stay feeling that way. What makes you smile? What makes you feel calm inside? What makes you feel strong? This what we explore throughout this section.

This section provides the space for the youth attendee to work with their adult attendee to identify coping skills they can try when they feel various emotions like anger, anxiety, burnout, sadness, overwhelmed, and lonely.

Section 5: Emotional Wellness Toolbox.

What is in your emotional wellness toolbox? This toolbox is a set of tools we can pull from when we need extra support. The toolbox the youth attendee will develop in this presentation includes:

  • People you can talk to
  • Ways to express your emotions
  • Coping skills
  • Positive affirmations
  • Reasons you love yourself

This section ends with a conversation between the youth attendee and their adult attendee on where they can go and what they can do when life feels tough.

As you can see, each section creates the opportunity for the youth attendee and their trusted adult attendee to engage in open dialogue together to open honest communication about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing.

“Learning to Love Yourself” workshop is available exclusively to upper elementary school students (grades 3-5). All youth registrants must have a trusted adult present, whether it is a parent, guardian, caregiver, adult family member, or another trusted adult in the participant’s life. The intention is to create the space for the youth attendee to share in a safe, vulnerable conversation where they can be supported as well as give the adult a glimpse into what the youth attendee is experiencing and the type of support they may need.

This workshop was developed to offer youth a space to fall in love with who they are and offer support to themselves before the world gives them every reason not to. The takeaways from this workshop are everything I wish I had learned when I was in elementary school.

Register Today: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (peersupportfl.org)

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at https://inspiringmygeneration.org/mental-health-workshops/

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Get Registered Today: Why We Must Teach Our Youth About Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills

Who are you? This is a question that I struggled with for years. Trying to distinguish who I was from who I thought I had to be and who people told me I was felt like an impossible task. I mean, how was I supposed to love myself when all the messaging around me told me that I shouldn’t? Everywhere I looked, commercials, entertainment, social media, I saw ads for beauty and weight loss. “If you get this injection or take these pills, you too will be this beautiful.” As a result of the messaging around me beginning at a young age and the lack of conversation around what it means to love and care for yourself, I hated myself, I criticized myself, and I mentally tore myself apart. And unfortunately, this is not just my story, but the story of so many young people around the world.

We are growing up in a world where life has become a comparison game and validation has been attached to strangers online. The pressure to have enough followers on social media has consumed many of us. When I was younger, I remember posting a picture on Instagram then holding my phone in my hand for hours refreshing to see who would like it and more importantly who wouldn’t. I spent hours trying to get the perfect picture just to end up deleting it because I did not get an “appropriate” number of likes. I remember crying for hours in my room telling myself how I am ugly or stupid or not cool enough. I criticized every aspect of myself to rationalize why my posts did not get more likes.

I wish someone told me back then the secret to loving yourself was talking to yourself with love. I wish I knew then what I know now about self-talk. We are constantly talking to ourselves, but not usually with kindness. Take a moment and reflect on the messages you tell yourself. For me, before learning how to reframe my thoughts, every negative thought I could possibly tell myself echoed through my mind like a broken record. No wonder by the time I was in college I began feeling hopeless. If only I had access to a conversation that taught me not only how to talk to myself but also how to cope with the negative thoughts when they come, maybe I would not have ended up hospitalized in a psych ward or spending countless hours falling apart questioning why I was not good enough.

This is why I am beyond grateful to announce that I have created that resource I desperately needed when I was in middle school. “Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills” was developed specifically for middle school students to teach them how to reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts and how to cope with negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions. The goal is simple: giving our youth the tools they need to navigate the journey of life.

Based on my workbooks, “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook” and “I AM,” the workshop is broken down into 5 sections: Who Are You; Reframe Self-Talk; Positive Self-Talk; How Do You Feel; and Coping Skills.

Section 1: Who Are You focuses on separating yourself from the labels given to you. We live in a society where everyone is trying to label who they are and labeling everyone around them, which can feel overwhelming and confusing. How does a human being fit into a single box? In this section, we focus on opening the box by removing labels and identifying ourselves as the multifaceted individuals we are through positive adjectives. I am not simply a girl, I am passionate, hardworking, kindhearted, loving, empathetic, strong, and so much more!

Section 2: Reframe Self-Talk focuses on rewording the automatic negative thoughts we experience. We are not failures for making mistakes, we are humans who are learning and growing each and every day. When speaking to friends, we often encourage them and offer support. When speaking to ourselves, we often use criticism, judgement, and punishment. In this section, we focus on becoming friends with ourselves through reframing how we talk to ourselves.

Section 3: Positive Self-Talk focuses on affirmations. When we are feeling down, insecure or overwhelmed, affirmations are a way to offer the emotional support we need to ourselves. These are definite phrases of “I am, I have, I will, I can, I believe, and I deserve.” Affirmations are how we can change the narrative from questioning what is wrong with us to knowing that we are more than enough as we are.

Section 4: How Do You Feel focuses on identifying how you feel. Emotions can be tricky, sometimes we are feeling sad, but we respond out of anger. But how do you change your response if you do not know how you are feeling? In this section, we are practicing connecting our current feelings to their origin to better understand and take a step toward learning how to cope with them!

Section 5: Coping Skills focuses on building a coping skill toolbox to manage overwhelming emotions. When you are feeling overwhelmed, what is one thing that helps you to breathe? When you are exhausted, what helps you get the rest you need? When you feel sad, what is one thing that helps you to smile? This section is all about making the connection between feelings and support so that youth are equipped with the tools they need before they need them.

Each section contains breakout rooms, practice exercises and/or group discussions to keep the audience engaged in building the tools they need. And most importantly, each section creates the opportunity for the youth attendee and their trusted adult attendee to engage in open dialogue together to build honest and supportive communication.

“Positive Self-Talk and Coping Skills” workshop is available exclusively to middle school students (grades 6-8). All youth registrants must have a trusted adult present, whether it is a parent, guardian, caregiver, adult family member, or another trusted adult in the participant’s life. The intention is to create the space for the youth attendee to share in a safe, vulnerable conversation where they can be supported as well as give the adult a glimpse into what the youth attendee is experiencing and the type of support they may need.

This workshop is designed to equip the next generation with all the tools I wish I had when I was their age!

Register Today: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (peersupportfl.org)

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at https://inspiringmygeneration.org/mental-health-workshops/

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Get Registered Today: Why Mental Health Conversations Are Essential for Our Teens!

Between December 2018 and March 2019, I attempted suicide to end my life 3 times. I felt empty and hopeless inside. I wanted to give up. Why didn’t I? What happened to get me there in the first place? How did I overcome? Let’s back up…

By the age of 5, I was struggling with my body image. I was a competitive cheerleader at the time, back in the day where the young kids also wore the tiny uniforms. My belly hung over my skirt, and someone made a joke that I looked “fat” in my uniform. It was not meant to be a malicious comment, but rather teasing between siblings. However, I took it to heart. I also felt pressured that I had to be a flyer, and a flyer had to be tiny. This was the beginning of compulsively checking my stomach in the mirror. It was also the beginning of anxious distress around the notion of being “good enough.”

As I got older, the fear of not being “good enough” deepened. Throughout elementary school I had panic attacks if my homework was not completed by 3:30p or if I did not get an A. By middle school, I felt inferior anytime someone scored higher than me, which resulted in countless breakdowns. I still remember hiding in the back of my closet in a basket under my stuffed animals so that my parents would not hear me cry. I was terrified of disappointing them. I had all these feelings, but never had anyone to talk about them. Whenever I tried, I always ended up crying, which resulted in comments like “Stop acting like a baby; get over it; suck it up; big girls don’t cry; etc.” Finally, I decided I needed to express it somehow, so I started a blog, which resulted in more teasing and bullying. Throughout high school, my mental health just got worse. My mom would have to pick me up from school frequently because of panic attacks causing severe chest pain. My breakdowns just got worse, but no one around me knew. I was a high-energy kid excelling at school to everyone else.

Throughout college, the fear of not being good enough continued to grow inside of me. I would vomit before exams and lose a week of sleep. By the time I graduated, I was beyond exhausted and overwhelmed. And, around that time, I lost my grandfather in a fatal car accident and my uncle to suicide. My heart was consumed by the tragedy in addition to the built-up distress I was experiencing. I ended up in the psych ward after attempting suicide 3 times.

Why am I sharing this personal story? Because my story is evidence of how a mental health conversation could have changed everything for me. Looking back, if there was a form of mental health education available to me or conversations or resources, I may have had access to support or learned the tools I needed to cope with life’s stressors. And therefore, I am so happy to have developed a workshop called “Mental Health Conversations” for high school students to teach them how to validate and support someone reaching out for help and more importantly how to reach out for help if they are struggling.

The full workshop is divided into three parts: Checking in With Others, Types of Support Available, and Reaching out for help.

The first part teaches the attendee how to check in with those around them. The five steps we discuss are:

  1. Check-in with yourself first
  2. Ask non-judgmental, open-ended questions
  3. Actively listen
  4. Validate their feelings
  5. Follow Up

To effectively learn how to utilize the five steps, attendees will practice with sample scenarios through group engagement and breakout rooms.

Next, we move into the types of support available. The five types of support we discuss are:

  1. Encouragement
  2. Community
  3. Emotional
  4. Informational
  5. Physical

To practice identifying the type of support, the attendees will learn the difference between I have, I want, and I need then learn how to connect what they are feeling to the type of support they have/want/need.

Lastly, we will bring it all together with taking what we learned about conversation and support to develop the language needed to reach out for help. The attendee will learn how to connect what they are feeling to the type of support they need to who/where they can reach out to for that support. During this section, not only will the attendee learn the following 5 steps to self-advocacy, but also practice utilizing the language to reach out through group engagement and breakout rooms.

  1. Know yourself and your needs
  2. Create goals for your conversation
  3. Express yourself clearly
  4. Be honest and vulnerable
  5. Be persistent

As you can see, this workshop is designed to teach the next generation of leaders all the tools I wish I had when I was their age!

You can register for this workshop at: Peer Support Coalition of Florida (peersupportfl.org)

You can learn more about the workshop as well as additional workshops at https://inspiringmygeneration.org/mental-health-workshops/

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Tips To Lose Weight While Protecting Your Mental Health

Written by: Bettie Olson

Losing weight is on everyone’s mind. There are diets expounded all over the internet and social media. But doctor recommended or otherwise, they all miss one huge thing: your mental health. Dieting is hard and often stressful if you don’t meet your goals like New Year’s resolutions, and not paying attention to your moods and how you feel only makes it worse. Here are some tips to keep you happier while dieting.

Avoid Sugar

Foods high in sugar have little nutritional value and increase the risk of diabetes and depression. Replace that Coke and other soda with unsweetened tea or flavored seltzer. Sodas can have as much as 16 grams of sugar, and while you may get a quick energy boost, the crash that follows is never pleasant. Soda also has high amounts of caffeine that can increase anxiety, so drinking water instead will help you feel more at ease. Try to drink around two liters of water a day. In addition to keeping your kidneys healthy, staying hydrated can improve concentration and prevent feelings of fatigue.

Eating Habits

Have you ever been in such a hurry that you wolf down a drive through meal in the car while driving? Not much fun is it. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND states that paying attention to where and how you eat can make a huge difference in your mood. Eat in an area where you can be comfortable. Enjoy the flavor and chew slowly and completely. Thorough chewing and eating slower will help you feel full faster. If you don’t have time to enjoy the meal, consider a quick healthy snack instead. Some nuts or a granola bar to stave off hunger pangs works great and will help you eat less when you do have time to sit down for a meal. Stock up on fruits and vegetables that you can eat on the go, or even eat for breakfast with yogurt. These foods don’t cause the spike in blood sugar that causes a ‘sugar crash’ in an hour.

Try a Personalized Diet

Dieting doesn’t have to be about deprivation and calorie counting. Cutting back on red meat and replacing it with more plant-based options is always a good idea. Personalized diet plans based on what you like to eat and what you don’t make reducing the bad stuff easier. Anyone who has ever counted calories knows that dropping too many results in no energy and irritability. Starving yourself on a crash diet plan just doesn’t work, plus it’s not healthy, mentally or physically. The weight loss programs at WeightWatchers represent how real weight loss can be achieved without restrictions on eating what you like. Losing pounds is more a matter of not eating more of one type of food over another and maintaining a balanced diet that boosts mental health. Substituting more healthy foods for less healthier foods is the key, rather than counting calories. And even if you can’t do it perfectly, keep a log of what you eat.

Stay Away from Highly Processed Foods

Often highly processed foods are also more complex to break down and use and include an increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. FDA regulations help, but there are still too many chemicals and contaminants (think hormones and microplastics) in these foods. New evidence also shows that these foods alter the microbiome in the gut, and scientists are finding that these gut bacteria affect metabolic homeostasis, mental health, and even immunity. Doctors and scientists are just scratching the surface of how the gut microbiome affects our quality of life, and what they are finding out is nothing short of amazing.


Dieting and losing weight isn’t a temporary change to get a desired result anymore. Changing your lifestyle is the key to long term health and happiness. The changes you make to eat healthier and improve your mental health through your diet will last a lifetime, and so will the satisfaction of success.

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How divorce impacts children’s mental health & Interventions to support emotional development?

person in white long sleeve shirt holding black pen

Divorce: the alteration of a family unit through parental separation. Divorce occurs for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to, growing apart and infidelity. Whatever the case may be for you and your ex-spouse, there is one thing that will always be in common: if children were part of the family unit, they will be experiencing the emotional and mental impacts of the divorce alongside you.

Kids can be impacted in many ways, but some of the most common areas to monitor are academic performance, social life, and emotional regulation as seen below.

Potential impacts of divorce on children.

  • Blame themselves for the divorce.
  • Attribute acting out (bad behavior) to the divorce.
  • Poor academic performance.
  • Experimentation with risky behaviors.
  • Behavior Regression.
  • Experience emotional outbursts.
  • Decreased mood.
  • Start fights with peers.
  • Lose interest in activities.
  • Suffer from separation anxiety from the parent(s).

Potential long-term effects of divorce on children.

  • Increased substance use
  • Psychiatric hospitalizations
  • Mental health symptoms and/or conditions
  • Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.
  • Increased risk of divorce
  • Financial problems.
  • Employment difficulties.

Interventions

The most important thing you need to know about the effects of divorce on children’s mental health is that the parents play an important role in how their children adapt. The parents’ relationships and behaviors can play a role in either increasing or decreasing the mental/emotional effects.

Here are some important interventions to utilize:

  • Minimize conflict and hostility around children.
  • Avoid putting children in the middle.
  • Maintain a healthy parent-child relationship.
  • Speak to children with warmth and encouragement.
  • Teach coping skills and help children feel safe.
  • Preserve appropriate discipline structure.
  • Have a support network for yourself and your kids.
  • Seek professional help (if needed to help you and/or the family unit adjust).

Sources:

https://www.genpsych.com/post/effects-of-divorce-on-children-s-mental-health

https://news.asu.edu/20210112-study-conflict-between-divorced-parents-can-lead-mental-health-problems-children

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/Preventing-Mental-Health-Effects-of-Divorce-on-Chi

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Invisible plastics: Is your health at risk?

close up photo of plastic bottles

Here’s a fact you probably did not know: each year, the average American consumes a credit card’s worth of microplastics every year. In fact, some research has shown that we may ingest greater than 100,000 microplastic particles every day.

What are microplastics? How are we exposed?

Microplastics are toxic chemicals invisible to the naked eye.

Exposure can come from a variety of sources, including ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. Microplastics can appear in our food, water, and air. Additionally, these particles can be found in everyday products, like synthetic clothing, tea bags, laundry/dishwasher pods, paper cups, facial cleansers, cosmetics, and even in some medicines. Some of the plastics ingested are composed of toxins, such as pigments, flame retardants, water repellents, and phthalates. Moreover, particles spread through the air may be composed of dust, synthetic fibers, and industrial/traffic emissions.

What is the harm?

The full extent of the health impact is unknown because there are many factors at play, including the length of time the particles are within our bodies, amount and frequency of exposure, type of exposure, predisposing genetic factors, and more. However, microplastics have been found to potentially impact brain development and/or cause neurotoxicity, metabolic disturbances, and increased cancer risk. In addition, they may also double as endocrine disruptors impacting hormone function and (potentially) causing weight gain.

In the context of brain health, exposure to microplastics during periods of brain development can have a significant impact on learning ability, memory, and behavior throughout the lifespan.

What can we do to reduce risk?

Unfortunately, once these plastic particles are emitted into the air or food or water supplies, they are essentially impossible to get rid of. As a result, reducing plastic pollution now can make a huge impact in the future. However, this method is not easy and requires support from everyone. Another more attainable method includes educating yourself on what to look for when purchasing food or storage containers, avoiding storing food or water in plastic containers, refraining from microwaving food in plastic containers.

Here are 2 great tips to remember:

When purchasing an item contained in a plastic container, on the bottom there will be a number inside a triangle. Refer to code below.

1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

2: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)

3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)

5: Polypropylene (PP)

6: Polystyrene (PS)

7: Other (PC)

Although the numbers listed above are related to recycling, they also offer us great insight as consumers. Numbers 2,4 and 5 are the safest among the 7 plastic labels. Numbers 3 and 6 should always be avoided, while 1 and 7 should be avoided or used with caution.

In the cosmetic industry, the ingredients list will include the names of plastics contained. Refer to the names of 22 plastic chemicals to watch out for below in your cosmetic products.

  1. Polymer
  2. Nylon-12 (polyamide-12)
  3. Nylon-6
  4. Poly(butylene terephthalate
  5. Poly(ethylene isoterephthalate
  6. Poly(ethylene terephthalate)
  7. Poly(methyl methacrylate) 
  8. Poly(pentaerythrityl terephthalate)
  9. Poly(propylene terephthalate) 
  10. Polyethylene
  11. Polypropylene
  12. Polystyrene
  13. Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon)
  14. Polyurethane
  15. Polyacrylate
  16. Acrylates copolymer
  17. Allyl stearate/vinyl acetate copolymers 
  18. Ethylene/methacrylate copolymer
  19. Ethylene/acrylate copolymer
  20. Butylene/ethylene/styrene copolymer
  21. Styrene acrylates copolymer
  22. Trimethylsiloxysilicate (silicone resin)

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068600/

https://www.news-medical.net/health/How-do-Microplastics-Affect-Our-Health.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/am-i-right/202110/microplastics-what-you-dont-see-may-be-harmful

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/08/microplastics-damage-human-cells-study-plastic#:~:text=Microplastics%20cause%20damage%20to%20human%20cells%20in%20the%20laboratory%20at,levels%20relevant%20to%20human%20exposure.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0048969720374039

https://yesstraws.com/blogs/news/types-of-plastic-plastic-numbers-guide

https://www.gloworganic.co.uk/blogs/green-beauty-world/how-to-avoid-plastics-in-your-cosmetics

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Panic Attack or an Anxiety Attack?

woman holding her head

The words “Panic Attack” and “Anxiety Attack” are often used interchangeably. The main difference is that experiencing panic attacks is considered a disorder by the DSM-5. The DSM-5 is the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It classifies the experiencing of recurrent unexpected panic attacks as a “Panic Disorder.”

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is defined by the DSM-5 as “an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking,
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
  • Feelings of choking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea or abdominal distress.
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chills or heat sensations.
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations).
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself).
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy.”
  • Fear of dying.”

Anxiety Attack

Anxiety Attacks, on the other hand, have triggers. Common triggers are stress, trauma, and excessive worry or fear about a certain situation. Anxiety attacks do have symptoms that overlap with panic attacks. These symptoms include an elevated heart rate, shakiness, nausea, and lightheadedness. Although physical symptoms are common during an anxiety attack, the more common ones include elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and pain in stomach. Whereas, in a panic attack, many people compare the experience to one of having a heart attack.

Regardless of the type of attack you are experiencing, you deserve support. There are many methods of support available. Some may be as simple as learning to avoid triggers. Others may include learning new coping mechanisms, exploring and processing trauma, and/or medication. One treatment option is not better than the other, the best treatment depends on the person and their specific needs. Mental health professionals can help you assess and form a treatment plan that is right for you.

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Child Development According To Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological System Theory

In 1977, American psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner conceived the Ecological Systems Theory to explain how children’s development can be impacted by social environments. Bronfenbrenner hypothesized that by studying children in multiple environments (ecological systems), we can have a better understanding of their development. According to this theory, every ecological system that a child interacts with will influence the child’s development. (2019)

Bronfenbrenner breaks the influence down into 5 ecological systems: Microsystem, Mesosystem, Ecosystem, Macrosystem, and Chronosystem.

Microsystem

The microsystem is the most influential level of the ecological system because it encompasses those with direct contact to the child. A few examples include parent(s), sibling(s), and teacher(s).

Mesosystem

The next level of the ecological system is the mesosystem. The mesosystem refers to how a child’s development is influenced by the intersection of the microsystem. The relationship between different individuals or settings that the child interacts with can have an indirect impact on the child. An example would be how the home environment interacts with the school environment.  

Ecosystem

The ecosystem is encompassed by events that are not directly related to the child’s participation in the environment. This ecological system emphasizes how situations outside of a child’s decision-making process can impact their development. An example may be a child growing up with a parent working extra-long hours or a parent enlisted in the military. (Bronfenbrenner, 1979)

Macrosystem

It is no surprise that the economic, cultural, and political environment a child grows up in can play an active role in their development. An example is the difference in development between a child growing up in a third world country versus the United States. (2019)

Chronosystem

The last ecological system is the chronosystem. The chronosystem utilizes the dimension of time to understand phases of a child’s development. A few examples are parents’ divorcing, moving, and parent(s) losing a job.

How can this theory be applied to counseling?

I think the answer to this question will differ based on who you ask. In my opinion, I think the best way to assess an individual (whether minor or adult) is through a comprehensive background of their social environment growing up. I believe the best way to understand someone is to understand the factors that contribute to who they are and what they believe in.

One trend I see a lot is the idea that people do not change. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe every single person has the ability to change, to learn, and to grow. Yes, someone has to be willing to change. But another extremely important factor is connecting with people on a level they understand. Someone genuinely may not understand why arguing with you all the time is a big deal if that is the home environment, they grew up in. Likewise, if someone grew up in an area full of danger and fear, they may be on edge most of the time.

In counseling, a therapist can collaborate with a patient to form a treatment plan that respects the environmental factors that have contributed to their overall brain health, starting with the early development years. As a psych student, I truly value learning how to build comprehensive treatment plans that are in collaboration with the patient and offer support for why they reached out for therapy in the first place. However, never overlooking the developmental factors at play. If we do not acknowledge how the past shaped someone, then how do we expect to help break maladaptive behaviors or help the patient enforce boundaries, etc.?

What are your thoughts?

References:

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

(2019) What is Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory? The Psychology Notes Headquarters.

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My Guide To Building A Coping Toolbox

photo of woman lying on floor while painting

This blog comes directly from pages out of Francesca Reicherter’s “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook.” For more content and exercises, this workbook is available for purchase on inspiringmygeneration.org and amazon.

Coping mechanisms are tools we use to help us through when our emotions feel overwhelming. There are many different types of coping mechanisms! One that works for you may not work for others, and that is okay. Everyone will have different things that help them at different times for different emotions and situations. Sometimes coping mechanisms that worked in the past do not work in the future, and that is okay too. As we grow and change, what works for us may also change.

Coping Mechanism Examples:

  • Art (Examples: coloring, painting)
  • Breathing (Examples: breathing exercises, meditation, yoga)
  • Cooking (Examples: bake, cook a meal)
  • Exercise (Examples: run, walk, sports)
  • Music (Examples: listening, dancing, singing)
  • Read (Examples: affirmations, books, magazines)
  • Writing (Examples: in a journal, poem, song, story)

Note: This is not a complete list of coping mechanisms. There are many different coping mechanisms, and the goal is to find what works for you.

My Guide To Building A Coping Toolbox

Determine which coping mechanisms you are already using. What helps you feel better when you are sad or angry or jealous? If you know the answer to at least one of these, this is a coping mechanism that you are currently utilizing. Now, ask yourself this, is this coping mechanism helping or harming me? What do I mean by that? For example, if you are engaging in a form of self-injury to numb your emotions, this coping mechanism is not truly helping you.  But, if you are journaling and expressing your feelings in a safe manner, then this coping mechanism may be helping you to process, feel, and heal.

Next, make a list of 5 coping mechanisms. You can either choose from the above list, the answers you have from the above question, or research other coping mechanisms! I want you to take the coping mechanisms 1 at a time and practice. Practicing our coping mechanisms when we do not need them is important so that we are ready to use them when we need them!

Write down the name of the coping mechanism and how you are feeling before trying it. Then, practice using the coping mechanism. Afterward, write down how you feel. Did you feel different? Was the difference positive or negative? If you noticed a positive difference, add this coping mechanism to your coping toolbox. (Repeat this 4 times, 1 for each coping mechanism.)

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A Guide To Enforcing Boundaries

concerned black couple sitting on bed in misunderstanding

Real Talk: There is absolutely no reason to set boundaries IF you do not enforce them.

Let’s face it: setting boundaries can be terrifying! If you are a “people-pleaser” or “go with the flow” personality type, the act of setting boundaries can be a challenging step to take. If you are willing to protect your space and set boundaries that help you build healthy, meaningful connections with others, then you deserve to reap the benefits of those boundaries.

If I create boundaries, won’t people just respect them? This is a multifaceted question. First, you have to share your boundaries clearly and explicitly with the other person in order for them to know where your boundaries are. However, secondly, people do not always believe that the boundaries apply to them, so they may not listen and act accordingly. Moreover, there are also people who will cross your boundary line simply because they can. If you do not enforce the boundaries you create, then many may feel inclined to exploit you and your boundaries.

But here’s the thing: you are allowed encouraged to draw a line between what makes you feel comfortable and what makes you feel uncomfortable. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your relationships. It does not make you a bad person for creating boundaries. Just remember to also respect other people’s boundaries as well!

So, once you decide on what your boundaries are, how do you enforce them?

Here’s my mini guide:

  1. Share your boundaries with the other person. Be clear and explicit. Examples:
    1. “It makes me feel uncomfortable when you touch my leg. I would appreciate it if you would not touch me without my consent.”
    2. “I feel hurt when you make fun of my intelligence. I understand you intend it as a joke, but I do not receive it that way. I would feel better if you would not make fun of me anymore.”
    3. “I am here for you, but right now, I am not in the right headspace to provide the support you need and deserve from me. I would love to help you find someone else who can be there the way you need.
  2. If they do not listen to your boundaries and cross the line, then remind them. Be forceful but polite. People do not often respond well when they feel attacked.
    1. “I told you before that this makes me uncomfortable. Please do not touch me again without asking if I am comfortable first.”
    2. “Please do not make fun of me. I have clearly explained that it makes me feel hurt.”
    3. “I am not in the right headspace as I mentioned earlier. I cannot provide the support you need right now.”
  3. Recognize that “no” is a full sentence. You do not have to explain yourself. We often feel like we need to give a reason after the word “No” or phrase “I do not want to.” You do not owe anyone an explanation. If you are not comfortable, if you do not want to, if you cannot, etc., you do not have to explain why. No is a full sentence and does not require justification.
    1. If you do not want to go out, you can simply say “No.”
    2. If you do not want to engage in an activity, you can simply say “No.”
    3. If you do not want to buy something, you can simply say “No.”
  4. Do not be afraid to change the nature of a relationship to protect the boundaries you have created. This may be an unpopular opinion, but it is okay to end or change relationships with people who do not respect you and your boundaries.
    1. It is okay to not spend as much time with someone who is emotionally draining you.
    2. You do not have to hang out with someone who is disrespecting your boundaries or even inadvertently causing you harm.
    3. Even if they are a family member or longtime friend, you do not have to compromise your own emotional health, space, or boundaries to satisfy them.
  5. Respect the other person’s boundaries. People tend to respond better when they also feel included and important. Someone is more likely to respect your boundaries when you also make the effort to respect theirs. Do not be afraid to ask them about their boundaries too!
    1. I want to also respect your boundaries. What are your boundaries?
    2. Is there anything I have said or done that has made you feel uncomfortable?
    3. How can I respect your boundaries?