<![CDATA[CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION - Blog]]>Mon, 28 Sep 2020 19:23:52 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Teen Attitude- How much of it is typical and what can be "corrected"?]]>Mon, 28 Sep 2020 21:14:58 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/teen-attitude-how-much-of-it-is-typical-and-what-can-be-correctedThe snarky No’s and endless attitude of living with a teenager can be hurtful and hard to take some days. What if you have 3 teens or 5 for that matter! If you are looking to survive the teen years, while hanging on to the great things in your relationship, read on: 
Don’t take it personally- Don’t Read this when you are arguing with your teen because otherwise you will skip this post altogether.  The eye rolls, attitude, sarcasm, testing limits, it's pretty much all typical and expected. **Note I didn’t say easy.

Some parents have asked me if they should let their teen know they don’t appreciate the tone or the behaviours. For the most part, I recommend letting it be and deciding which are the battles worth fighting for. I think you can bring it up if you are saying it from a neutral place (so maybe the next day). There may be a chance that they hear that and think twice next time, but that’s a bonus, not the goal. 
Self-Care for you- You are the adult and you have more experience and more access to your fully wired brain (most of the time). The more you take the time to care for yourself, the more you are able to let things roll off your back and it pays off for everyone. I have a pretty non-negotiable morning routine that includes meditation and a workout to help me be more even keeled throughout the day. What do you do ?
Teen therapy teen counselling Calgary Alberta Psychologist for Teens with anxiety and depression
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
Practice your ABC’s-
  • Attentively listen
  • Boundaries
  • Connect
Hear your teens' concerns, ask about them and really listen. Stick to your boundaries. You are going to have some hard No’s based on your values and beliefs as a parent. If you are coming from a place of love they are important to have. Above all, connect. Let them know you hear the suck and the struggle.
Know all of this is part of an important developmental milestone- Teens develop important skills like cooperation, problem solving, and negotiation by essentially acting out to some degree. For better or worse, you are the identified safe ground to try out these skills. To get the thinking brain at work here you can try a paraphrase once in a while, “so what I heard you say is everyone you play games with is fine with being cursed at and talked down to”.
Allow yourself thinking time- It’s ok to say “we are not having this discussion right now with us being so angry”. It’s ok to walk away (maybe not storm away) and come back to things, even if it's the next day. Don’t ever let nagging cause you to cave on things that you have a hard line on.
Keep these in mind to help you shift your perspective and know your teen may be having a hard not giving you a hard time. Let the weight drop off you like sandbags and embrace self-love as a parent choosing to show up.
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
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<![CDATA[Do you trust your teen: Talking Parental controls]]>Mon, 14 Sep 2020 17:02:42 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/do-you-trust-your-teen-talking-parental-controlsYou know those apps that allow you to block, see and track your teens digital usage?

I've heard from many teens that parental controls feel restrictive and kinda disrespectful. Teens are bright and find creative ways to get around or disable these tools.
​Ok.
Are you freaking out a bit?
It's simply not a clear cut answer of whether you use them or not. What it boils down to are your intentions and how your decisions are supporting your teen to develop-
  • Critical thinking
  • Responsibility
  • Choice making skills
Psychologist for Teens dealing with anxiety, depression, overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Coping and skill building
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
If you want to have a respectful relationship with your teen, even if they won't like all your decisions, let's dive into this parental control idea.

Imagine this analogy: When you go tobogganing (living in Canada here, thinking of snow!) you will see kids with snow pants, no snow pants, helmets, no helmets, some taking insane jumps and others sliding down cautiously.

Internet safety is a part of parenting to help teach your kids the behaviours you think will line them up for safety and success just like any other potentially dangerous activity.

digital citizenship

Online communities are like in person communities in that there are responsibilities, social norms, and folks that behave in all kinds of ways.
Psychologist for Teens dealing with anxiety, depression, overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Coping and skill building
Photo by Creative Christians on Unsplash
Educating your teen on digital citizenship starts with You. Understand the 7 key areas:
  • Empathy
  • How the Internet works
  • Understanding user data
  • Practicing digital literacy
  • Acknowledging the digital divide
  • Practicing digital wellness
  • Securing digital devices
Chris Zook goes into more detail on each on these here
​By having conversations with your teen (yes multiple conversations ) about the online world, you are building trust, responsibility and their ability to make informed choices.

And listen they're gonna mess up because that's how humans discover, learn and grow in this world.

age matters

Conversations on how to use the internet safely need to begin as soon as your kiddos start using technology. Now of course, what you will say to a 4-year old is going to be completely different then talking to your 13-year old.

Talk to your teens about what they are seeing, who they are interacting with, and what is catching their attention online. This is a huge insight into their world and what is important to them right now.
Psychologist for Teens dealing with anxiety, depression, overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Coping and skill building
Photo by Julia Coimbra on Unsplash

when you are considering parental controls

Ask yourself, "what's my intention?" If it's to block all potentially disturbing content and track your teen's online behaviours, you may see this backfiring on developing a respectful relationship with them.

Perhaps you are in a situation where parental monitoring is a big challenge right now? You have your specific reasons for considering parental controls.
Psychologist for Teens dealing with anxiety, depression, overwhelmed thoughts and feelings. Coping and skill building
Photo by Michael Jeffery on Unsplash
It is so important that you consider what actions you are going to take to continue building trust and develop your teen's ability to make smart choices and take responsibility.

Talk to them about why you are making internet use decisions and be prepared to hear their concerns. Help them by connecting your reasoning to their hopes and goals (e.g. if they wanna get good grades, sleep and reduced tech use before bed will help them reach this).

Consider flexibility within the controls.
No matter what decision you make, you will Stay in your teen's squad if you approach it relationship first.

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
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<![CDATA[When Thin is the fashion statement- teens and body image]]>Mon, 31 Aug 2020 20:34:22 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/when-thin-is-the-fashion-statement-teens-and-body-imageI was reading an article about this amazing “new” summer dress that was circulating on social media, you know the one with the strawberries?!  Only to find out it wasn’t new at all as it had been worn by plus size model Tess Holliday at the beginning of 2020.

​The dress had been mocked at the time and now is a big hit.


The primary difference: the body types wearing the dress! 
Teens and Body Image. Positive self-esteem, self-love. Calgary Psychologist for teens
Photo by Adriana Chionetti on Unsplash
I was struck by this realization although I know I have been seeing this socialization my whole life. It reminded me that when I was young, I really wanted to wear short shorts but when I did, I was always tugging at them and looking behind me to see if my cellulite was exposed. I have come a long way with body image and self-love.

The messages social media pumps out about style is that it is depends on your body type and not about what you love
.
BUT IT DOESN’T have to end there.

I want to help you take those “I”m not (insert defeating adjective here- e.g. beautiful/curvy/thin/sexy/good) enough” thoughts and STOP letting them control your choices.

If you agonize over your clothes, skipping out on those pieces you would love to wear because you are afraid they won’t fit you, check out these 5 body image tips.
Calgary Psychologist for teens. Body Image and self-esteem
Photo by Drop the Label Movement on Unsplash

find positive body image role models

It can be your mom, auntie, bff’s mom- anyone who is putting out the vibe of loving their body in its imperfect form.

Be critical of what you see in the media and find models and celebs that are similar to you.

know where to get information about bodies and body changes

Talk to your trusted adults and ask questions. They have likely been asked by someone before.

Get your information from reputable sources such as teen talk, teens health and mindyourmind.
Calgary psychologist teen self-image body image self-esteem
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

take social media breaks

Unplug, turn it off, step away, stop scrolling those feeds and let your eyes and brain take in other stimuli.

Get out for a walk, hang out with a good friend, immerse yourself in your life and the enjoyable moments.

practice body acceptance

Notice what your body can do and how it can move.  Whether it's dancing, stretching, running, being still, etc.

Compliment yourself every single day about one quality (inner and outer) that makes you, You. So important to practice this every day. 

List 3 things you like about your body and Check out this body image booster download

practice body awareness

Notice which clothes feel good on your body. Tune in and take the time to stretch, breathe and ask yourself how your body is feeling in this moment.

Notice the messages you are saying to yourself about your body- how do they make you feel? If you were talking to a close friend would you say the same thing?
Calgary Psychologist for teens. Teens body image self-esteem self-love
Photo by Gemma Chua-Tran on Unsplash
By following these tips and taking care of your body with what you put in it, how much you rest you get, and staying active every day, you will bring confidence, clarity, and strength to your life.

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
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<![CDATA[How to Connect with your teen so they feel understood]]>Wed, 19 Aug 2020 19:30:11 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/how-to-connect-with-your-teen-so-they-feel-understoodWhen my kids do something pretty outrageous, my first urge is yell- "what were you thinking?!?!"

It’s a work in progress, I take a lot of deep breaths, and repeat my 3 mantras. I still often default to - what were thinking ?!
Connecting with your teens can be hard, especially if you are met with sarcasm, mean words, and attitude that would pierce even the hardest of heart shells
Teen therapy Calgary, parenting teens in calgary alberta, psychologist, emotions, counselling
Photo by Kevin Lehtla on Unsplash

What's going on with their brain? 

Tween and teen brains are undergoing many different developmental changes and their identities are forming. Their limbic system (emotion centre, reward, pleasure, and motivation) is ON and their pre-frontal system (rational, impulse control, decision making) is still wiring.
 
This means youth are much more prone to interpret body language, tone, and words as judgemental and self-focused. You might say “Oh, new shirt?” and it may be received as “you look bad” or “I’m noticing all of your imperfections”.

This can make it hard to say the right thing or not have a 40 foot wall suddenly appear between the two of you. 
If you want to flip some of those interactions and connect with your teen, even though you are tired and don't need another thing for your brain to take in, here is a no-brainer I have found super helpful.
I stick to these 3 mantras to guide me-
  1. I want to understand
  2. I am listening with empathy
  3. I may not like it, but we can get to that
Therapy for teens Calgary. Counselling for teens and parents. Calgary Psychologist
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I want to understand

I follow the L.I.S.T.E.N acronym: Listen, Inquire, Self-Regulate, Tone, Empathy, No advice giving. I want to understand is about 100% curiosity and trying to understand as best you can their experience. It’s not an interrogation. It's not a solution giveaway. This is a great way to get your teen to build their reflective and awareness skills.

I am listening with empathy

I already said empathy I know, but this one deserves its own mantra. The definition of empathy courtesy of Brené Brown is "to be nonjudgmental, understand another person's feelings, and to communicate your understanding of that person's feelings".

When all I want to do is give the solution, explain my stance, or just tell them to stop, these are red flags that I am not listening with empathy. I pause and reset and authentically say something from a place of empathy like, “Oh that sounds terrible”, “I know it doesn’t seem fair”, “I can’t imagine…”.

​It’s a game changer.
Therapist in Calgary. Psychologist for teens in Calgary. Teen counselling
Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash

I may not like it, but we can get to that

Some things will be hard to listen to! There are going to be times when you will have to clarify expectations, help them navigate safety in situations, and give some helpful suggestions. “But We can get to that” reminds me that I always want to start with the first two mantras.

I know that I can come back to this in another conversation, your relationship with your teen and the conversations that go with it are not a One Shot Deal. 
If you follow these 3 mantras you are sure to feel more connected to your teen and stay a support in their squad.

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
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<![CDATA[10 rules for being confident when talking to others that your teens Need to know]]>Fri, 07 Aug 2020 18:37:32 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/10-rules-for-being-confident-when-talking-to-others-that-your-teens-need-to-knowI have heard from many teens I work with - I don't get how people are so confident when talking to others. ⁣Variations of this wondering brings me back to when I was younger and my teen self totally relates- sometimes even now I still do.
It can be hard to talk to others, especially new people. If you feel shy sometimes, you’ve probably had your mind go blank in the middle of a conversation, feeling your face grow hot, and feeling at a loss to keep going.⁣
Shy, confidence, Therapy for Teens in Calgary Alberta
Unsplash photo by Abigail Keenan
Great News: Confidence is a skill. ⁣

Sure, some people struggle less with confidence for various reasons (brain wiring, genetics, environment) but confidence is something you can train every day, like a muscle, for it to become stronger. ⁣
Practice by sticking to these 10 rules:

1. 𝐊𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐅𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐋𝐨𝐠𝐢𝐜- when you feel nervous or worried about what others are thinking, your flight or fight takes over. The best antidote is to bring your thinking brain back online. Try being extra logical about your fear beforehand- what’s the worst that can happen and then what, what has changed?⁣
Therapy for Teens, Calgary, Alberta, teen self-esteem, confidence
Unsplash photo by Imran Bangash
​2. 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐮𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐜𝐬- A little each day and diversify. Find one or two things you find interesting. These can help you start small talk which is often the hardest part of conversation⁣ with others

3. 𝐀𝐬𝐤 𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬- When you are talking with someone to help keep the conversation going, use some open ended questions- What do you think? What’s your favourite? How do you? And, listen- don’t be getting ready for the next thing you’re going to say in your head⁣
​4. 𝐁𝐞 𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐨𝐭𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐞𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐜𝐭- The "oh crap everyone is looking at me" effect- research says you overestimate on average 2x the amount of people who are actually noticing you in any given moment⁣

5.𝗪𝐢𝐠𝐠𝐥𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐭𝐨𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐬- keeping yourself present and connected to your body will help with checked out nerves⁣
Shy, self-esteem, confidence, Therapy for Teens, Counselling for Teens, Calgary Alberta
Unsplash photo by James Mason

​​6. 𝐔𝐬𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐤𝐞𝐬 𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐝- Imagine a conversation like a bike wheel. The topic is the centre of the wheel and all the possible conversations are the spokes. If the main topic is something you know little about, that is OK . Think of things that are related to the topic and questions you can ask. ⁣

For example, someone starts talking about Crossfit, your conversation spokes might be- working out, exercise routines, staying healthy, personal challenges and some questions might be - what do you like about Crossfit? When did you start ? ⁣How does it work?

7. 𝐓𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐋𝐚𝐝𝐝𝐞𝐫 𝐄𝐱𝐞𝐫𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐞- You can go from "I suck at talking to others" to "I am confident to have a conversation with anyone". Imagine your thoughts as if they were on rungs of a ladder. The first one (I suck) is on the bottom rung and the ultimate one (I am confident) at the top. Now map out 3-4 other thoughts that would be between these two. Practice them one rung at a time, starting at the second rung until each feels more believable before moving to the next⁣

8. 𝐋𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬- try some related to confidence and grounding⁣
Teen mental health, therapy for teens, teen counselling, calgary, alberta, confidence, self-esteem
Unsplash photo by Nalau Nobel

​9. 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐄𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐬 𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞⁣- everyone has things that are out of their comfort zone and some things that feel downright terrifying. You are not alone in your experience and most people have some level of questioning their confidence when it comes to talking to others in some contexts.

10.𝐏𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐏𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐬𝐞- your body language affects how you feel percent. What we know about an expansive posture is that it helps you breathe in a way that relaxes your nervous system and helps reduce stress. So 30 seconds every day, stand tall with your hands on your hips- kind of like Wonder Woman ⁣
Practice these 10 rules and talking to others will become the least of your stressors.

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
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<![CDATA[What Boredom will teach you about self-love]]>Tue, 04 Aug 2020 03:48:29 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/what-boredom-will-teach-you-about-self-loveIf you are a tween or teen or the parent of tween or teen who has uttered these words "I’m bored", read on.

Have you been thinking this? Feeling this? Or, saying this lately? 

Dozens of my clients are struggling with feeling unmotivated, lacking excitement in life and feeling down a lot of the time. Covid isolation and the domino effect of changes has been a drastic 180° for many activities and routines that guaranteed some sort of social interaction.

If you’re wondering what you should do to overcome this feeling, check out the 7 boredom busters below 
Hobbies- 
What kind of hobby do you enjoy? Is there something you’ve been thinking of learning or trying? Pinterest, Etsy and YouTube are some great places to find ideas of things to try. You don’t have to obsess over it or even perfect it, it’s about trying something and discovering what you enjoy. 

Routine- 
routine might sound like the root of boredom, same thing all the time…..Boring! Well turns out that some amount of routine actually helps with boredom!

If you have a solid routine on some of the basics (sleep, hygiene, exercise), it frees up brain power to focus on things that are fun and creative like new adventures. Also, having predictable routines in the areas of exercise, nutrition, sleep, and hygiene help boost your feel good endorphins- and a brain that is feeling calm and feeling good is much less likely to feel bored.

Mindfulness- 
Practicing mindfulness and becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment can help you better understand your boredom. Being bored is the surface state, but a curious deep dive may allow you to discover if it’s about feeling lonely, disconnected, unmotivated,  tired, etc. 

The more you know and name your experience, the less power it has over you and the more it leads you to knowing the action and choices needed to change the feeling.
Creativity- 
If boredom is a lack of something, then creativity is the opposite. Music, games, art, reading, challenges, anything that gets the right side of your brain engaged can be great for ending boredom. So grab your markers, paint, headphones, a good book and let creativity in.   

Get to know Thy Self- 
I am aging myself big time here, but reading teen magazines back in the day (yeah like the paper kind) and filling in those quizzes to know more about what kind of friend I was or what was my dating style was always interesting.

I would always take the results with a grain of salt, but there was usually something I could relate to that helped me learn a thing or two about myself. Take some time to get to know who you are! 

Get to know Thy Roommate - 
Spend time with your roomies. Your roommates, whether they are mom, dad, siblings, or other, can be a source of boredom no more. Get to know them a little better by joining them during an activity or asking them questions. It might be interesting to learn about a hidden talent, memory or story that you didn’t know before. 

Laugh- 
What makes you laugh? I mean belly moving, watery eyes, laugh? Laughter releases feel good endorphins that are sure to help in those moments of boredom. You could try laughter yoga, comedy shows, try not to laugh videos, pranks, hanging out with a funny friend- let the laughter flow. 
Being bored can be a fantastic thing.

It can spring you into action to resolve the feeling and it is where the most creative and fun ideas are born.

If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to build bulletproof mindsets
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<![CDATA[Anxiety in children and teens: What you need to know]]>Sat, 16 May 2020 02:14:31 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/anxiety-in-children-and-teens-what-you-need-to-knowIn these times with uncertainty in a world that is changing more rapidly than we can sometimes imagine, knowledge can be like medicine.
 
If you are a child or teen impacted by anxiety or you are caring for someone with anxiety, I hope this blog will provide you with some helpful information. 


​Let’s start from the beginning- What is anxiety? 

Well anxiety is a state caused by your perceived sense of threat to an event, person, or situation. In other words, anxiety is a combination of thoughts and feelings that activate your Stress Response, calling your body and mind to take action to try and keep you safe and minimize threat and danger.
When put that way, I kind of think of anxiety as a superpower. A superpower that every human being has. 

If anxiety can activate your body’s stress response, putting you in a state of action, and doing this in a matter of mere seconds- that’s pretty impressive!
Anxiety and superheroes how to cope children, teens, young adults in calgary alberta therapy
Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash
I want to say a little more about how anxiety is useful. We can probably agree that everyone experiences stress at some point. Perhaps you even agree that our stress response to perceived danger and threat is one very important way to keep you safe. 
Our body and mind’s response to danger is part of your evolutionary hardwiring for survival- this is most useful if the goal is to live.

The response is automatic, meaning you don’t have to think about activating your stress response. If a rabid tiger (do tigers get rabies?) ran into this room right now, you would not want to waste time thinking about whether or not it is dangerous or what you should do. You need to act right away and that’s what anxiety helps you do- ACT NOW.
Anxiety is useful in the tiger situation, but let’s face it, you may not encounter this scenario too often. Anxiety can also be useful in handling situations that require some stress for best outcomes. A situation like a performance, maybe a sports performance or an art performance require some degree of stress to mobilize memory, muscles, blood flow, and breathing.

​Anxiety can be useful and it can also become problematic and I will talk more about that below.
Key points to remember:
  • Everyone experiences stress and anxiety some of the time
  • Anxiety is like a superpower designed to detect and respond to perceived threat and danger
  • Our stress response is automatic and it happens in mere seconds
  • Anxiety in doses, can be useful for performance

​The world you live in today is much different than the world of 50 years ago. You experience stimulus at a much faster rate. Take a second and think of how many sources of information and the amount of information coming at you, even in the last 30 minutes.

I have probably checked my emails (yes more than one), glanced at instagram, received text messages from people I know, half read a couple articles that piqued my interest on Facebook, all while eating a burrito and petting my dog. This statement gives you plenty to judge me on, but I’m hoping to highlight that we live in a world with a lot going on a lot of the time. 


​Why is it important to talk about anxiety these days?

Your body and mind need to sift through information (stimuli) at lightning speed and determine what is a threat and what is not. That’s a taxing job, even for a superpower. 

Research tells us that severe anxiety and mood disorders are on the rise in young populations. We need to talk about anxiety so we can come together as a community, share ideas, support one another, and create spaces and states that feel safe. 
It’s also important to talk about because stress and anxiety have larger consequences on the body and mind if not attended to. Stress has different levels, one of those being adaptive stress or as some call it, healthy stress. This kind of stress causes a response in your body that has quick recovery times which is great because you can manage that. Prolonged stress or toxic stress however, is more taxing on the body and mind and has slower recovery times which can cause significant negative consequences to your health.
Child, Teen, Young Adult anxiety therapy in Calgary, Alberta
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash
Key points to remember:
  • Our mind is sifting through enormous amounts of stimulus at lightning speed to determine what is a threat and what is not.
  • Research tells us severe anxiety is on the rise in young populations
  • Prolonged or toxic stress can have long term consequences on your health


​What does anxiety look like?

Ok, remember anxiety is a state that activates a response in your body to perceived danger or threat. That response brings on-line our sympathetic system, which is also known as the flight, fight, freeze response. This is a survival response that mobilizes your body to take actions required to keep you out of danger. 
You might notice:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shallow, quicker breathing
  • Increases in some of your senses (smell, sight)
  • Dilated pupils
  • Distributed blood flow to certain parts of the brain and muscles
teen and young adult anxious thoughts and feeling how to support
Photo by Fernando @dearferdo on Unsplash
​Now if you continue to have anxious thoughts and feelings, the body continues to mobilize resources, but has to make some changes to sustain this flight, fight, freeze mode. 

Now your system is:
  • Releasing cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Suppressing pain response
  • Reduces hearing 
  • Increasing activity in the amygdala (alarm system in brain) and hippocampus (memory bank of brain) 
  • Decreasing activity in pre-frontal cortex (planning and reasoning part of brain)
  • Increasing blood clotting activity
  • Interfering with sleep
  • Suppressing immune system
Keep in mind your stress response is proportional to the degree of perceived threat. If you think something is super dangerous, your body and mind will respond in a big way!

Also, the longer your body and mind are sustained in an anxious state the longer the recovery time. This part is really important. If you imagine anxiety as a superpower and you use it all up to deal with your nemesis DANGER and THREAT, you are going to need time to rest and rebuild your energy stores. 

​Key points to remember:
  • Anxiety triggers your sympathetic system (flight, fight and freeze)
  • Anxiety and stress require recovery time
  • The bigger the stress response, the longer the recovery


​Different types of anxiety

Anxiety in and of itself is a very useful state to have to keep us safe and responsive. However, when anxious thoughts and feelings lead to symptoms that interfere with day to day functioning it can become problematic. 
Anxiety disorders can be a way of labelling when anxiety becomes problematic. 

Some types of anxiety known in children and teens: 
Phobias
Experiencing very anxious and fearful thoughts and feelings, often irritational, linked to situations, objects, or things. More common phobias are dying, flying, spiders, vomiting, needles, etc. 

​Separation anxiety

Experiencing very anxious thoughts and feelings when separated from parents or caregivers. Usually feeling worried that something bad will happen to self or someone you love while you are apart. May result in refusing to participate in playdates, school, daycare, camps, or sleepovers. 

Social anxiety

Experiencing very anxious thoughts and feelings related to social situations. Heightened stress and self-consciousness around others with strong worries about being embarrassed, humiliated, or judged.

Generalized Anxiety disorder

Experiencing very anxious thoughts and feelings about everyday events for prolonged periods. 

Panic disorders

Experiencing sudden and unexpected panic attacks. You would also experience very anxious thoughts and feelings about having another panic attack in public or in undesirable situations and usually avoid places where a panic attack might occur. 

PTSD

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is when you experience ongoing symptoms after a terrifying event(s). Usually experience very anxious and frightening thoughts and memories of the past event(s). The event(s) was/were terrifying to you physically, emotionally, and psychologically. 
 
OCD
OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) has two parts- obsessions, which are persistent, intrusive and unwanted thoughts, images or impulses (urges) and compulsions, which are repeated behaviours that can decrease the anxiety temporarily. Often, you may know the obsessions are irrational or unconventional but unable to control them. Some common compulsions may include, washing, checking, repeated walking patterns, touching, counting. 
Key points to remember:
  • when anxious thoughts and feelings lead to symptoms that interfere with day to day functioning (for many different reasons) it can become problematic. 
  • Anxiety disorders are a way of labelling when anxiety becomes problematic


​How to cope?

If anxiety is just doing its thing and keeping you away from danger, this is great. Thank anxiety for being such an amazing superpower and keep it up. 
If this superpower is out of control and interfering with daily life, there are things you can do to harness its energy.

If you want to talk to someone about what’s going on or you have more questions, consider reaching out to a healthcare professional or another trusted adult. It may be a parent, family friend, coach, doctor, school counsellor, therapist, etc.

​Don’t suffer alone!

Here are some ideas that might help harness the power of anxiety.
Helping children, teens, young adults cope with anxiety Calgary Alberta
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Coping strategies to cope with anxiety children, teens, young adults Calgary Alberta therapy
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Grounding and settling:
Finding a way to settle your body and mind is like adding water to a flame- it can soothe and lower your anxiety response. A lot of these ideas start with the body and are designed to kick in your parasympathetic system (rest and relax) which is the opposite of the sympathetic system that kicks in when you are anxious. Some examples of this are:
  • Focused breathing
  • Tense and release exercise
  • visualizations 
  • Stretching and yoga movements
  • Sensory exercises to bring you to the here and now (54321, rainbow spotting, hearing challenges, etc.)
  • Brain gym
  • Calming art or music
 
Self-Compassion:
Often times, you might find yourself having harsh thoughts about anxiety. It can be easy to go to a place of what’s wrong with me, why can’t I control this, this is my fault etc. Self-compassion is an invitation to bring in a gentler, kinder voice (maybe like a kind friend or a great sidekick) that can offer some new possibilities in understanding and handling anxiety. Some examples of this are: 
  • Mindfulness exercises
  • Compassion and kindness exercises 
  • Exploring feelings with curiosity rather than judgement
  • Art to help explore
Thought work:
Anxiety is about your perceived sense of threat or danger, so it is not necessarily the truth of how things are but rather how you think they are. If you have ways to understand and challenge your thoughts this can be very helpful in harnessing anxiety. Some examples of this are:
  • Mapping your thoughts
  • Thought ladders
  • Thought stopping
  • Thought challenging
  • Understanding thinking traps

​Containment:

Imagine (I know I’m really going with this superpower metaphor) anxiety is a powerful ray of light that shoots from your body uncontrollably anytime you feel you are in danger. Containment is a way to centralize and focus that beam of light to one area or to keep it locked up for a bit while you work on some other harnessing strategies. Some examples of this are: 
  • Worry boxes
  • Worry trees
  • Things I can control and things I can’t control exercises
  • Container visualizations, imagery, art
Managing anxiety, worries, fear, children, teens, young adults, therapy and counselling support calgary, alberta
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​Habits and Hygiene:
Just like anything in life, if we are well rested and refreshed, we tend to show up in a much more capable way vs. when we are feeling exhausted and depleted. Considering the different habits and different hygiene practices you have can be very helpful in harnessing anxiety. Some examples of this are: 
  • Having consistent quality sleep
  • Eating regularly and eating foods high in nutrients and vitamins
  • Having routines that are supportive like around bedtime or when you first wake up
  • Bringing supportive relationships closer and distancing self from harmful relationships
  • Having regular self-care practices such as sport, art, exercise, spending time with friends, laughing, relaxing, etc.
  • Limiting alcohol and drug use which mess with our body chemistry and can quickly make anxiety feel out of control
Key points to remember:
  • There are so many different things you can do to help harness anxiety
  • Don’t suffer alone, talk to someone if you are struggling with anxiety
Psychology supporting children, teens, young adults dealing with anxious thoughts and feelings Calgary, Alberta
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If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

Comment below on how you manage anxiety.

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults learn how to rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, worried and negative thoughts
Work with me

Author

Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology's goal is for all young people to be able to discover their greatness and uniqueness and to share those gifts with the world. That means being on a mission to help older children, teens, and young adults  learn how to rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts and feelings. Chantal meets people in person in southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions. Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try cognitive, mindfulness, and narrative strategies, as well as the expressive arts if it fits. 

You can follow Chantal on Facebook @pyramidpsychology and Instagram @therapywithchantal
https://www.pyramidpsychology.com  

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<![CDATA[How to help: When Tween and Teen emotions are running high]]>Wed, 06 May 2020 02:28:09 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/how-to-help-when-tween-and-teen-emotions-are-running-highDuring the Covid-19 home bound period, many of us may notice our tweens and teens emotions at an all time high and moving around like roller coasters. You might notice tears, frustration, yelling, down moods, isolating, and so on. This is partly due to the state of change and uncertainty being experienced in our society because of the pandemic. However, you are also likely getting a magnified look at what was already there.
Emotions during covid-19 in children, teens, and young adults counselling in Calgary
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Spending more time at home with our youth has given us an opportunity to get the inside scoop on how they are doing emotionally and how they are coping with the ups and downs of life.

I’ve chosen to see this as a gift, a true
opportunity to get a pulse on what otherwise may be kept away from us most of the time. What is the gift in seeing my 12-year freak out because I asked them to turn off their video game? Or having a full out meltdown during an English assignment?
Meltdown in emotions during covid-19 children, teens, and young adults
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Well I’m glad you ask, because it may not be that apparent in those moments and I’m definitely not saying it is easy in any way. 
What I am seeing is an opportunity to better understand how our young people are doing at the moment and how we can help teach them valuable ways to cope with the tough stuff.

I want to share three​ areas that you can focus on, as parents and supportive adults, to help your tweens and teens when emotions are running high.
Teen anxious thoughts and feelings during coronavirus Calgary Therapy
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Normalize and allow 

I saw a post the other day in my IG feed that said something like "we are not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm". Everyone, including our kids is experiencing the pandemic in unique ways. There are some good moments and some tough moments and I don't think we can say this statement enough-

​Whatever you are feeling is ok! 

​Normalize and allow means:
  • Showing empathy and compassion
  • Letting your kids know it is normal to respond with all kinds of emotions about what is going on
  • Saying things like "this does really sucks right now", "I know you're frustrated right now", "I'm missing __________ also"
  • All feelings are ok
  • This is different than all actions are ok (e.g. It’s ok to be pissed off- it’s not ok to punch a hole in the wall)
Spending more time at home with our youth has perhaps allowed us an opportunity to get the inside scoop on how they are doing emotionally

noticing and naming feelings

This might seem like a no brainer and you may think, “my teen knows if they are sad, glad, mad, etc". This may well be true but one thing I've noticed is that there is a tendency to focus on a narrow range of emotions such as excited, happy, scared, angry, sad, disgusted.

It can be helpful to develop your kids emotional vocabulary. This can help young people better understand their experience and express themselves. Also, this can help us as adults tune in and show our support. 
Emotions and how to teach different emotions kids teens young adults Calgary Therapy
Emotion Wheel
In a moment of high emotions, it might be impossible to imagine introducing an extended emotional vocabulary, so that's not the place to start with this one. You might start by printing out a feelings wheel and posting it somewhere, checking out on-line resources together or practicing using different words to express your own emotions. Research suggests the more vocabulary we have about our feelings, the more we develop ways to process them and the ability to figure out plans of action to cope

Naming the emotion can simply start with "I’m feeling....". Your tween or teen may not know what they are feeling all the time. In the beginning, we can encourage our kids to start saying "I’m feeling....". This is the start of building awareness and noticing feelings. ​
Anxious, depressed, worried thoughts and feelings during covid-19 Calgary Psychology
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If your tween or teen is open to mindfulness in some way, and you may be surprised which ones are, you can try inviting them to try some short practices. Mindfulness is big with athletes right now with the perspective of sport being such a mindset game. Athletes are practicing mindfulness with their coaches and organizations. It has become so much more mainstream and so the invitation might be worth a try.

If your tween or teen is able to practice naming their feelings or at least acknowledge that they are experiencing a feeling you can invite them to check in with themselves.

Checking in means asking:
  • Where do I feel this feeling in my body?
  • How big or intense is it right now?
  • What sensations do I notice- tight, tense, heavy, hot, light, pulsing, empty, numb, knotted, etc.

​The more our kids can connect with a feeling and bring awareness to it, the more easily it will flow in and away. There are a couple of scripted practices that you can search for such as “labelling thinking and feeling” and “noticing your emotions”. Try this with many different feelings not just negatively experienced ones.

3R's of emotional literacy- regulate, relate, reason

If you are familiar with Dr. Daniel Siegel’s hand brain model, it can be a really useful tool in understanding how our brain functions and how it responds to stress.

Dr. Siegel uses the expression of “flipping our lid” when our brain goes into fight or flight mode. When we are faced with something that is distressing or provokes big feelings, our brain detects a threat and jumps into a sympathetic state called fight or flight. What does this look like in our kids?

Well it could be yelling, shouting, tantrums, tears, meltdowns, shutdowns, self-harm, etc. Dr. Bruce Perry introduced the idea of 3R’s as 3 steps that parents can take to help support their children when they have “flipped their lids”. 
Regulation- This is the first step in settling and soothing the body and brain. This step gets "the lid" back on so that our kids can get their thinking brain back on-line. The more this skill is practiced, the more the brain builds new neural pathways that make regulation more automatic. You can coach your tweens and teens through these moments and you can also teach them to use these skills on their own.

Regulation means:


  • Using our senses (tuning into what we can see, hear, feel, smell, taste)
  • Movement- the best is patterned and repetitive movement such as walking, running, wall pushes, dancing, butterfly taps, drumming.
  • Using sensory items like putty, pounding clay or pillows, weighted blankets, hugs
  • Using calming smells like aromatherapy (test beforehand!!!), or a fresh smelling article of clothing or blanket
  • Using sound like noise cancelling headphones or listening to music
  • Focused breathing like slowing down our breath, finger or shape breathing, 4-7-8 breath
Emotions during coronavirus children teens and young adults Calgary Counselling
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Relate-  Now that "the lid" is back on, we are looking to care for their emotional centre. Connecting and reconnecting with our kids in that moment and letting them know we love them and are there for them and with them. Consider your own affect and your tone. It may be subtle, but if you offer a calm and loving presence vs. an agitated and cold presence, the outcome will likely be very different. Actively listening to our kids can help them feel connected and bring about more positively experienced emotions. 
Reason- Once our kids are calmer, we are able to access the deeper and more reflective thinking. This might be where you come up with ideas on how to solve similar problems in the future. It might be where you talk about alternative behaviours and negotiate expectations and limits. 
I saw in my IG feed that said something like "we are not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm". 
So as emotions run high during this time, remember to normalize and allow, notice and name, and use the 3R's to help our youth develop their best emotional coping skills. 
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults looking to rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts
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Author

Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology's goal is for all young people to be able to discover their greatness and uniqueness and to share those gifts with the world. That means being on a mission to help older children, teens, and young adults rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts. Chantal meets people in person in southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions. Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try cognitive, mindfulness, and narrative strategies, as well as the expressive arts if it fits. 

You can follow Pyramid Psychology on Facebook @pyramidpsychology and Instagram @ chantal_at_pyramidpsychology
https://www.pyramidpsychology.com  ​​

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<![CDATA[When the world feels like it’s falling apart a little (a lot!): Understanding phases of disaster model and 6 things you can do about it today.]]>Fri, 24 Apr 2020 22:54:17 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/when-the-world-feels-like-its-falling-apart-a-little-a-lot-understanding-phases-of-disaster-model-and-6-things-you-can-do-about-it-todayWhen I transitioned to working from home after the schools closed on March 16th of this year, I was feeling optimistic! I was thinking to myself- I will have quality time with my kids, get a good exercise routine going, see my clients virtually, and maintain a clean home. 
Phases of disaster response- emotions during pandemic how to cope
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Well that idealistic dream burst when I started to realize that triple duty; mom, teacher, and psychologist, within a 12-14 hour day is…..um…..ludicrous! It turns out I’m not alone and there is actually a fair bit of research on this whole responding to pandemics and crisis stuff. I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of weeks and I’d like to share one thing with you all that has helped me gain some perspective. ​
​It is called “The Phases of Disaster Response” or sometimes called “The Emotional Phases of a Disaster Response” and "Phases of Collective Trauma Response". This model has helped me understand the ups and downs that my family and I have been experiencing as well as given me hope for what might come next.

As I am learning about this model and its 4 phases (heroic, disillusionment, rebuilding and restoration, and wiser living), I have also been considering different ways to cope. This is not a rigid model and everyone's experience is unique so you may not follow the exact flow of what is described and that is OK!

The 4 phases of Disaster response

Heroic Phase - The heroic phase generally happens right after a disaster has hit.  A disaster such as a crisis or a pandemic. One of the main qualities is a rush of endorphins. It is like having a surge of energy where we take action almost automatically. We jump in, doing whatever we can to help. We can tend to hyperfocus on “necessary” tasks and be in “get it done” mode. This might look like planning schedules for school and work at home during the pandemic, making to do lists, buying lots of toilet paper, and tightening control over things we have a say in. Lists, routines, and planning are the name of the game.  We may feel resourceful and come up with creative ways to spend our days with self and family.
phase of disaster response - emotions during pandemic how to cope
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Disillusionment Phase- This is where the endorphin train halts hard! We may notice constantly feeling exhausted, like a burnout of “this too much and there is nothing I can do to make it better”. This usually shows up as physical tiredness and lethargic feelings. It might be hard to get out of bed. Our emotions are running high. We might be feeling grief, stress, helplessness, frustrated, irritated, and these emotions might be wearing us down. Some people may experience different types of feeling like appreciation and gratitude for some of the changes. There can be a sense that there is nothing we can do to change what has happened and that there is no going back to the way it was.
Phases of disaster response- emotions during pandemic how to cope
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Turning- This is not a phase but lies between disillusionment and rebuild/restoration. This is usually described as coming to two truths- one where we acknowledge the loss and grief of the old normal and at the same time feel that there is still good in the world. There may be a balance in productive energy and rest/recovery. We might give ourselves permission to not know everything. We feel a sense of acceptance of some of the more negatively experienced emotions (sadness, confusion, anxiety, frustration, boredom, etc.) and know that there are still positive emotions to be experienced (joy, fun, excitement, gratitude, etc.).

We may miss things from our “normal life” like friends, teachers, routines, learning a certain way, and activities. We may also start to adjust to a “new normal” with new routines, different ways to connect with friends and family, etc. 
Rebuilding and Restoration Phase - This phase is considered an action phase. It is one that is collective and collaborative. Families coming together, professionals, community, government, etc. Is it marked by a focus on the “best interest of the most people”. We may see that this phase strikes creativity and an invitation for many voices from the community. This phase takes time and we experience the ups and downs of grief with a sense of moving forward. 
Wiser Living Phase - This phase occurs when communities are well into their “new normal”. Families and communities have considered measures and preparation to help with future experiences. There is an acknowledgement of what has changed for people in more permanent ways. There is an awareness of existential questioning and a recognition of our mortality. This phase is an oscillation between scars and healing.

6 things you can start doing right now to cope

phases of disaster response- emotions during pandemic how to cope
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1. Recognize this is a collective trauma response - Many of us have heard this or something like this “We are in this together”. As social creatures, knowing we are not alone and that everyone is impacted by this global experience is an important coping strategy. There are others who are badly wishing they could hang out with their friends, go outside, play on their sports teams, and not constantly be frightened of someone they love getting ill. ​
2. ​Have a sense of what phase you are in -If you identify where you most closely find yourself in this model, it can help you decide what you need next. For example, if you are in disillusionment, care and rest are so important as well as giving yourself permission to NOT do. Also, knowing where you are right now, might give you a sense of what might be ahead.
3. Everyone's experience is unique - ​Know that this model is just a guideline. In some ways this might contradict my second point. It is important to recognize that this is one model with some good information and that our experiences are unique and may not follow a linear path. As a role model of mine often says, “take what fits and leave the rest”.
4. Start with safety (bottom up approach) - If we think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the very basic needs must be met before we can tend to other needs. Our physical needs are first, followed by safety, love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization. Basically we need a roof over our head and food in our belly before we can “desire to be the most we can be”. Think about your physical needs and what you might be needing right now. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Are you staying somewhere that is not safe right now?
Two truths- One where we acknowledge the loss and grief of the old normal and at the same time know that there is still good and hope in the world. 
Our nervous systems work the same way. If we start from the bottom-up, we can help kick in our parasympathetic (rest and relax) nervous system. This can help us feel calmer and manage moments that are overwhelming. Start with something simple, like finger breathing (tracing your breath on one hand using a finger from your other hand), finding 10 items in the space where you are that are the colour blue, imagining a calm place and tapping gently from side to side on your upper legs. The more you practice these types of tools, the more automatic they become.
5. Nourish yourself throughout the day -I feel like you can’t overdo this one. Find moments, even slivers, throughout your day that bring calm, well-being, laughter, inspiration, creativity, play, exercise, rest, and more each day. You can begin by focusing on one of those and peppering your day with activities that bring that into your life. If you choose laughter for example, Facetime someone who puts a smile on your face, watch a stand up comedy show, funny cat videos (are those still a thing?), or try not laughs, fake laugh for 10 seconds- and it shouldn’t take long before it becomes a real laugh. Let me tell you by experience it is super contagious to fake laugh, as my 12 year old said between giggles, “stop mom you’re being so weird!”.
Phases of disaster response- emotions during pandemic how to cope
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6. Know your village​ - Who are the people that you feel good around. Do they live in your home with you? Are they elsewhere? What is about them that makes them important to you? List those people, think about them, and think about ways you are connected to them right now. You might be meeting up on video games or during virtual games nights. You may be part of a WhatsApp or Marco Polo group. You might call them once in a while. You might sit down to a meal together every day. Be intentional about connecting to your village, to your people. ​
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults looking to rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts
Contact me

Author

Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology's goal is for all young people to be able to discover their greatness and uniqueness and to share those gifts with the world. That means being on a mission to help older children, teens, and young adults rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts. Chantal meets people in person in southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions. Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try cognitive, mindfulness, and narrative strategies, as well as the expressive arts if it fits. 

You can follow Pyramid Psychology on Facebook and Instagram @Pyramidpsychology
https://www.pyramidpsychology.com  ​​

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<![CDATA[Feelings as visitors: How to welcome all feelings even the "Bad" ones]]>Wed, 25 Mar 2020 22:11:37 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/feelings-as-visitors-how-to-welcome-all-feelings-even-the-bad-ones

learning from our feelings

Ok today we’re writing about tricky feelings, those feelings that are difficult to experience, those that are pleasant, and feelings in general. I want to highlight that our relationship with our feelings is pretty important and if we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better. 
I’ve decided to start by sharing a poem that I find quite profound and helpful in how I experience feelings. I like this poem for many different reasons, but mainly because, for me, it talks about how we can have a relationship with feelings and experience feelings in a way that isn’t scary. If we spend less time trying to avoid or deny a feeling and more time listening and learning about it,  the experience may be easier to have and may teach us something.
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The Guest House
 
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
 
— Jellaludin Rumi,

feelings don't last that long

Learning and listening to our feelings may open the door to opportunities, as Rumi said, and the reality is feelings don’t necessarily last as long as we think. Feelings come and go and are constantly changing, but we may tend to perceive them as lasting a long time or not lasting long enough.  
I saw a post on social media that shared a picture with two lines. The top line symbolized
How long we think a feeling is going to last.

Beneath it was another line that symbolized

How long a feeling actually lasts.

​What it showed is typically we anticipate that tricky feelings are going to be more intense, last much longer, or be more scary than they actually are. It’s important for me to say that feelings are legitimate and some feelings are very difficult and painful to experience. YES, this is true and this is the human condition. Even those feelings don’t continually happen, we kind of tend to bob in and out of them in the mix of all our other experiences.  
So this topic is about how to deal with tricky feelings and feelings that are difficult to have.

​In our society, we are kind of taught to do a couple things with feelings.

One of them is to chase or gather a feeling that we really love. Say for example the feeling of happiness, excitement or joy. We’re always striving to have that feeling and have lots of that feeling, you know like the pursuit of happiness. In this case there is often a scarcity mentality, like there is just never enough of that feel good emotion. We can also become concerned about moments we are not feeling those more positive feelings, sending us on a futile hunt.

Another thing that we’re taught is not let ‘bad feelings’ in or to avoid, deny, or change them. There seems to be messages of shame around experiencing certain emotions that are perceived as negative like anger, sadness, anxiety, boredom, etc. 
if we learn to approach feelings with curiosity rather than resistance and judgement, we may find that we can cope much better
If you imagine yourself as a little person inside a house and you think about feelings as visitors or guests, there are some that we openly invite in, 

“oh yes, come on in and take up all the space you need”,

feelings like happiness, joy,  peace, or calm. 

Then there are other feelings like sadness, pain, or anxiety that we decide “I don’t want to have this feeling” so we slam the door in their face. 

The thing is these guests, the feelings, don't just go away like that. They are quite persistent that they have something to share with you, and will just keep trying to find a way to get in. Those feelings end up kind of sticking around a lot longer than they need to, which can cause problems.
Anxiety, pain, sadness, feelings to cope with children, teens, young adults how to deal with difficult feeling, calgary therapy
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Thinking of feelings as guests or visitors, like Rumi wrote about and another book I will share with you, allows us to interact with them in a very curious way instead of being scared or reluctant to experience feelings, even if it’s one we think may not be great to have around. 
The book ‘Visiting Feelings’ by Lauren Rubenstein is a great resource. It has beautiful artwork and a poetic tone to the writing. This book invites people to consider what a feeling might look like, sound like, feel like, and takes a curious approach to feelings.
I really wanted you to take a moment to sit with that possibility. Feelings as visitors, as guests-  

Temporary. Impermanent. Not forever.

They will not last forever: good, bad, or terrible. I want to invite you to think about the different feelings you experience everyday and approach them with curiosity rather than judgement. 

​Consider asking the following questions of your feelings:

What does this feeling want me to know? What does it need right now? What is one thing I can do to learn more about it? Can I journal, draw, talk to someone about it, build it with clay, splatter paint to represent it, blast music that sounds like it? 
Treating a feeling like a barometer, can help tell you what’s going on in your current experience. This way, you might reflect on your emotions a little bit differently, gaining some new insights, and having a different relationship with your feelings.

Box Journaling

If you’re onboard with this idea of feelings as visitors or at least onboard with trying it out, I would invite you to try a journaling exercise. There are so many ways to journal and I am going to share one as I was inspired by Carla Sonheim, who shared this in a webinar. ​​​
Ok in reviewing my video above, I chuckled because I don’t quite know my left from my right, but rest assured the concept of box journaling is legitimate. I like box journaling because it combines free flowing ideas and creativity, as well as, some structure and idea prompting so that you can come away with an idea or an action to take that might be helpful.
For box journaling you will need a sheet of paper and a black marker (you can use a pen or pencil also). If you have pencil crayons or coloured markers, you can also use those. Start out by drawing a large box on your paper. You will then be dividing the box into 5 sections.
Section one: ​Draw a horizontal line under the top line of the box (creating its own little box within the larger box) and this is where you will put the date and you can add where you were when you journaled. 
Section two and three: Underneath the horizontal box create two vertical boxes. These will take about two thirds of the page. The one on the left is the largest and the one on the right is slimmer. The left box is where you will put your free writing. The slimmer panel box on the right is where you will grab ideas from the free write and create a list of themes, ideas, key phrases, action items, etc. 
Section four and five: Underneath the section 2/3 boxes you will create two smaller boxes that are about equal in size. They will take up the rest of the space on the paper. The box on the left will be for a drawing. This can be a squiggle, scribble, symbol, stick figure, or any kind of image that helps represent something about your writing or how you are feeling in that moment. The last box on the right is a miscellaneous box. You can continue some free writing here, continue your image, paste a quote, add an affirmation or word that inspires you, etc. You get to decide what goes here. 
Box journaling can take as much or as little time as you have. If you only have 10 minutes, spend 5 minutes on the free write journaling and the rest in the other sections. If you have a little longer, give yourself at least 5-10 minutes to free write and then a few minutes with each of the other sections.
There’s an idea of what you can do to start to be curious about feelings. Consider for yourself, what are some other things you can do to invite feelings in and learn more about them while they are visiting?
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

- Chantal Côté, R.Psych, Pyramid Psychology- helping older children, teens, and young adults looking to rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts
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Author

Chantal Côté is a Registered Psychologist in the province of Alberta and the owner of Pyramid Psychology. Pyramid Psychology's goal is for all young people to be able to discover their greatness and uniqueness and to share those gifts with the world. That means being on a mission to help older children, teens, and young adults rid themselves of unhelpful anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts. Chantal meets people in person in southeast Calgary, on-line for those living anywhere in Alberta, and outdoors for walk and talk sessions. Chantal uses a trauma informed lens and invites people to try cognitive, mindfulness, and narrative strategies, as well as the expressive arts if it fits. 

You can follow Pyramid Psychology on Facebook and Instagram @Pyramidpsychology
https://www.pyramidpsychology.com  

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