<![CDATA[CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION - Blog]]>Wed, 03 Jun 2020 01:43:52 -0700Weebly<![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
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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
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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
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​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.
Difficult feelings, anxiety, pain, worry, children, teens, young adults, a calgary counselling support
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash
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
Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash
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
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[anxiety and nightmares: how to curb their appearance]]>Sun, 22 Mar 2020 03:23:28 GMThttp://pyramidpsychology.com/blog-youth-counselling-children-teens-young-adult-anxiety-fear-worry-self-esteem/anxiety-and-nightmares-how-to-curb-their-appearanceeveryone has nightmares.
Everyone has had a nightmare at one time, or at least it’s safe to say that most people will have a nightmare at some point in their life.

How old we are (developmental stage), what’s going on in our lives, and what we’ve been exposed to can impact the type, frequency and intensity of the nightmares we might experience.

In this video and blog we will talk a little about why we have nightmares as well as some ideas to help prevent and respond if you or your child are having nightmares. ​​
I have to apologize (and laugh a bit) because my dog burst into the room in the last few minutes of the video demanding attention. You can hear her nails tapping along on the floor as she gets closer to me. It’s slightly distracting but I was on a roll and I didn’t want to stop. There will be no clickety clacking in future videos.

I promise! 
Picture
This is the noisy culprit on our summer vacation last year

​I really enjoyed creating the video and blog because I decided to ask the young people in my life. I have a demographic from 6-20 years old. My husband also wanted to share his input, but he did not quite fit the demographic of the folks I’m reaching out to - so thank you and a shout out to him for his passionate support of my practice. 

why do people have nightmares? 

Well the thing is, it is not entirely understood- here is what science is telling us so far:
  • At night, our brain continues to actively process the daytime sensory input (what it saw, heard, smelt, tasted, felt) 
  • The brain connects to memories and past experiences at night
  • Emotionally charged thoughts that we have during the day that the brain is still working through, like thoughts that lead to us feeling worried, scared, anxious, appear during sleep
  • At night, we process thoughts and memories that we might be avoiding during the day
  • Being stimulated by an image, video, or event that we continue to think about can cause nightmares
  • Food intake and exercise that interact with our body and brain and impact our sleep
One thing research tells us for sure is that while we are sleeping there is still a lot of electrical activity happening in the brain which activates certain parts of our brain and that can create images and narrative (or stories) if you will, which are our dreams and our nightmares. 
Routines, reassurance, protective symbols, grounding and making meaning can be helpful in coping with nightmares
brain impact on nightmares, anxiety and nightmares, children, teens, young adults, calgary, alberta, counselling
Photo by Tayla Jeffs on Unsplash
When it comes to anxiety and nightmares, it is common that a person with a lot of thoughts that lead to anxious or fearful feelings can be a prime candidate for having nightmares.

It’s not to say that everyone that has anxious, negative, or fearful thoughts and feelings will have nightmares, but there is some information that states a link there. Nightmares linked to anxiety can be difficult because they may be caused by anxious and fearful thoughts and feelings, but they may also leave us feeling more anxious and fearful, thus becoming a bit of a loop.
worried and anxious thoughts, link to nightmares, children, teens, young adults, calgary alberta, therapy
Photo by Tine Ivanič on Unsplash
The young people I spoke to said the reasons they have nightmares are, seeing something scary, like an image or a video, or something that lead to a scary feeling could result in a nightmare. Another reason might be if they are experiencing something stressful that they are thinking a lot about or something they are worried about, it can carry over into their sleep. Also, if there is an event or a circumstance that played out and left them feeling worried or scared or anxious, it could be a traumatic event or it could be something that they’ve got on their mind, whether it be an upcoming performance or a fight that they had with someone they care about. 
Feeling scared, anxious, worried, having nightmares, how to cope, children, teens, young adults, calgary alberta, counselling
Photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash

ways to curb nightmares.

Food
I was curious about the possible link between food, exercise and the impact on  nightmares. I didn’t find anything so specific that said "eat this and you won’t have nightmares" or "avoid this to stay clear of nightmares", but I certainly found some information about the quality and quantity of food that we have just before bed or sleep time and the potential impact. 
For example, if there is something interfering with your digestive process at night, that can impact our sleep and lead to nightmares. If there are certain types of foods that are rich in certain nutrients or lack certain nutrients that can impact your sleep, increasing your chance of having nightmares.

A quick personal anecdote, I’ve noticed a link between eating cheese late at night and having the most bizarre dreams/nightmares. There is no scientific research to back that one up, but for me it’s about noticing and being aware of how certain foods might impact the dreams and nightmares that I have. 
food and nightmares, anxiety support, anxiety coping, children, teens, young adults, calgary, alberta, therapy
Photo by Lidye on Unsplash
Exercise
I found information that linked exercise to the prevention of nightmares. If we exercise regularly during the day, it releases different hormones into our system and those are mood enhancing hormones. If we have an enhanced mood, then it’s more likely that our thoughts are leading to more positively experienced feelings. If we have more positive feelings, it decreases the amount of time for stress and negative thoughts. If you are not going to sleep with a lot of stress or negative thinking, then it lessens the chances of having nightmares.

​Love it! 
Continuing on with the exercise piece,  one way of lessening the frequency of nightmares is ensuring that you are doing things throughout the day that produce happy feelings and encourage joyful moods. 
Exercise to cope with anxiety and nightmares, children, teens, young adults
Photo by Tevarak Phanduang on Unsplash
Routines and Rituals
The young people I chatted with said that it was helpful for them to have some sort of routine and ritual that is part of their bed time. Some examples of this were using prayer or some sort of affirmative statement (may I be safe, may I be free from bad dreams).

We also talked about actions that contribute to relaxing and calming the mind and body as being helpful. For example, focused breathing, massage, meditation, snuggling a pet, a bath, journalling or using essential oils. 
support and coping with nightmares and anxiety, children, teens, young adults, calgary, alberta, therapy
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash
Protective Symbols
A more commonly known symbol of protection when it comes to dreams is the dream catcher. The specific symbol isn’t necessary, if there is a symbol that works for you to introduce, it’s more about what it represents. I’ve known people to use guardian angels pins, horseshoes, crucifixes over a bedroom door and red fabric meant to keep bad dreams away- it can be anything really. The representation of the protective symbol or ritual that has to do with going to sleep and feeling protected and comforted. 
protective symbols to help cope with nightmares and anxiety, resources, children, teens, young adults, counselling, calgary, alberta
Photo by Dyaa Eldin on Unsplash
Comfort and Reassurance
Reassurance from a parent or another safe person after a nightmare can also provide that necessary comfort. A simple, “I know that was scary for you”- can provide the gentle reassurance that is calming and soothing. Hugging a pillow can be another comforting action. 
Dreams and nightmares can be caused by the ongoing electrical activity in our brains at night
Distraction and Grounding Practices
Transitioning from the feeling and state of having a nightmare to a more safe and settled state is really important. Thinking about something completely different or something really good may be helpful. Having a book by your bedside that makes you feel good or makes you laugh can be a great to have. If you have a younger person that has had a nightmare, you can read the story to them. and you can also place the book gently on their lap. The weight of the book along with the soothing voice as you read combines comfort, distraction and a grounding response.

You can try taking a drink of water or splashing your face with water. Colouring, writing, petting a furry friend, looking at your fish aquarium, are some other ideas and really anything that gets your mind off of the nightmare can be helpful. 
Caging the Nightmare
I really like the idea of “caging the nightmare” and I’ve used it for kids as old as 11 but I think it could be a reflective exercise at any age.   This is a simple art activity where you invite the person to draw a picture that represent the nightmare in some way. They do not have to put details if they don't want to. Once they have complete the image, invite them to draw or create a cage for the nightmare in some way. Children can get pretty creative with this. I always encourage them to create a cage that is secure and strong and that only they have the power to open it if they choose. This act can be pretty helpful to prevent future nightmares.

Sometimes, once the nightmare is caged up really good, I might invite them to have a conversation with the nightmare and ask them questions like, why did they come to visit? what is it they wanted them to know? what makes them stronger/weaker? It can give some good insight on what our child is worried about or frightened of. 


caging the nightmare strategy to deal with nightmares and anxiety, children, teens, young adults, calgary, alberta, therapy
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
Thought Dump
Our active minds may begin to race especially at bedtime when there is a little less stimulus coming our way and things are a little quieter. Some of those thoughts may be the ones that interfere with our sleep. Having a way to write those down or draw them can be a way of getting them out so that it doesn’t carry into our sleep.

The “thought dump” is where you take your journal or something you can write or draw your thoughts out on- unfiltered, pouring them out freely for a set amount of time, maybe 2-5 minutes. This technique can literally and metaphorically feel like it is getting the thoughts out so that they are not ruminating in the mind or carrying as much weight as you go to sleep.

Sometimes it can help at the end, after you are done writing or drawing to crumple the paper up or if you are typing it on your phone doing a big DELETE.

Making Meaning, not Interpreting
The last thing that the young folks shared with me is getting to the root of the nightmare. Not necessarily interpreting the nightmare, but rather understanding and being curious: “why is it that I might be having this kind of thought? What’s happening in my life right now that is stressful that might be leading me to have nightmares? What is it that I’ve been thinking about? What are some things that have been making me feel scared, anxious, negative?”. You can entertain these as self-reflections, journalling, or talking to a trusted person. 
There are links between the foods we eat, exercise, and preventing nightmares.
Ok so that’s a little bit on nightmares. I would like to invite you to share in the comments any strategies that you use that work really well to prevent nightmares or respond after a nightmare. Or, if you have a great book that you’ve used to help children or teens respond to nightmares, let us know.
If you found this post helpful, pass it on by emailing a friend or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook- Thanks!

Happy dreaming. 

- 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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