ANXIETY

Ways to stop the transfer of anxiety to your child

On my last post i explained that i was waiting for my dissertation results – well i can now tell you i am very pleased to have received a first!!

According to Kirmayer (2019) a clinical psychologist, the main part of treating anxiety in children is teaching their parents stress tolerance. This helps to direct the parent’s anxiety, while also helping them support and scaffold their child’s development of stress tolerance.

So if your a parent and suffer from anxiety, then you should ensure that you stay calm, with a neutral demeanour when feeling anxious in front of your child. This will teach your child that being calm is the way to deal with stress. However, if you cannot control your anxiety infront of your child (there are times when i have not managed to stay calm and my girls have witnessed me have a full blown panic attack) then after the event the parent should explain to their child how they were feeling and explain why they acted the way they did.  You should then explain that there are better ways to deal with it and talk about strategies that might help. By talking about anxiety in this way with your child, you are letting them know that it is ok to feel stressed and anxious but you are teaching them that it is manageable.

It has been proven that parents’ behaviour and genetics can affect their child’s anxiety. Although a parent cannot change their genetics, there are ways parents can help their child not to get anxiety. It involves the parent modelling the behaviour they would like to see from their child, and not letting them witness any anxious behaviour.

A parent needs to look at their own worries and how they deal with it. Making changes to the way you act, can change how the child acts. You should give your child lots of encouragement and show you are interested in your child and the difficulties they are facing. For younger children reward charts can help, these reward the child for the behaviour you would like to see, for example sleeping in their own bed at night.

If you try to help your child avoid their triggers for anxiety, then although this might help in the short term, in the long term it is actually reinforcing the anxiety. It is more important to help them find techniques to manage their anxiety and to face up to it.

There is debate as to whether children should be given warnings prior to a routine change, as some need time to get used to the idea before it happens but others find this more stressful. Normally, you will know which your child would be better with.

The NHS suggests that a parent should talk to their child about how they are feeling, reassure them that they are not alone and that they understand how they are feeling. They should then support them with finding solutions to their anxieties rather than looking at how to avoid them. With a younger child, it is recommended to try and distract them from their anxiety, and with an older child relaxation techniques may be useful.

If the child’s anxiety gets no better after you have tried supporting them yourself, then seeking external support is the next step. Making an appointment with the child’s GP, who can then refer on to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The Young Minds helpline is another point of contact, which can give you and your child advice on how to get support with their mental health. The support that is offered by CAMHS would depend on the child’s age and what is causing the anxiety. The most common support that is given for anxiety in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT involves talking to a therapist who helps the child identify patterns between what they think, feel and do in situations where they are feeling anxious. Occasionally, the counsellor may ask to do sessions with the whole family, especially if it is a family problem that has caused the anxiety. The NICE guidance states that CBT can be given one to one, or in a group, and that the child or young person should be seen between eight and twelve times.

Medication is used regularly with adults, but rarely with children. If CBT does not work with an adolescent or a young adult then a doctor may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Research shows that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the first line medication for children, and have been proven to work. There has been debate over the risks of children taking medication, but the research shows that the benefits outweigh the risks. Although, the long term effects have not been researched.

The American Psychiatric Association (2013) describes resilience as adapting well when faced with threat or tragedy. It first became a concept after the trauma of war. Practitioners in health, social care and education work together to try and promote resilience in children and young people. Parents can also help promote resilience in their children by providing their child with a balanced and positive view of the world and explaining to the children that although bad things can happen, that society and individuals can overcome them. Resilience can be built by talking, problem solving and support.

The Education Secretary, Damian Hinds (2019) explained that compulsory health education, including mental health support will be taught in schools. These lessons will include mindfulness lessons and breathing techniques which will improve a child’s resilience. He also added that the Government is launching mental health trials in 370 schools, with them contributing evidence of the best mental health supports. This will include having a designated mental health first aider.

 

Just remember that talking to your child about anxiety and showing them ways to deal with it helps. Children copy their parents behaviours so try and explain to them why you have acted in a certain way.

Talking is the best therapy.

ANXIETY

Rhodes – my sisters wedding

My sister got engaged on Christmas day 2014, and they planned their wedding for June 2016 in Rhodes. She had asked me, my other sister and my two daughters to be bridesmaids. I was so excited for her and I knew it was going to be the most magical day. The only problem was my anxiety – I was praying that I would not ruin or miss my sisters big day because of my panic attacks. I had been on my Sertraline for a while and my panic attacks had stopped but the worry was always there that they would return at any moment, especially as we were going to be flying on an aeroplane and being away from home for a week. All these situations where my anxiety would flare up. The drive to the airport, the airport, the flight, the coach transfer to the hotel, the actual wedding ceremony, the coach to the wedding venue, the boat trip after it, the taxi ride back to the hotel, the transfer back to the airport, the airport, the flight home and the car ride home. That was a lot of situations to worry about my anxiety flaring up, and that wasn’t counting any unexpected trips while we were away. I thought I would probably be ok in the hotel room as there was a toilet at all times and even though my husband, two daughters and I would be sharing the one room, they all knew that if I needed the toilet I had to go right away. But the last few times I had stayed in hotels I had had panic attacks, so this was a worry. I knew I was doing so much better on my Sertraline, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about all these situations.

I knew I would have to put things in place to help me. So I cancelled the transfers to and from the hotel and decided we would get a taxi instead, this meant that I wouldn’t have to be on a coach with other people (which made me worry that I couldn’t ask them to stop for me to use the toilet or if a panic came on). I made sure I had toilet roll for the car journey to the airport, and that we set off in enough time so that if we had to stop we wouldn’t be late, and I listened to a youtube calming video the whole way. I had looked at the a map of the aeroplane to figure out how many toilets there were and where they were located and I had asked my sister to ring up and ask if there would be a toilet on the boat trip, which there was.

And do you know what I managed it all without worrying and actually really enjoyed myself. The holiday was amazing, a 4* hotel that was all inclusive – chocolate pancakes whenever we wanted them from the pool bar, the food was amazing, the kids had so much fun and we were with all my family. My sisters wedding was a magical day and she looked absolutely stunning.

I was so happy that my anxiety had not ruined it for anyone including me. I do put that down to the Sertraline and also the fact I was so open with all my family and friends and so I knew I could talk to them about it anytime and that they would be there to support me.

The last day of the holiday wasn’t as great. My mum, dad and brothers had already left to fly home but there was still my sisters and husbands/boyfriends, my nephew and my husband and children. We had had breakfast and then had been sunbathing around the pool. It was now the middle of the afternoon and we hadn’t had lunch yet as no one had wanted to move, but I was starving and so hot from the sun. We all decided to go for lunch, but they had all gone ahead. I was walking towards the lunch buffet and trying to work out where they were all sat. But I had my sunglasses on, not my glasses (and my sunglasses are not prescription ones) so I was having to squint to try and make out where they were. So I wasn’t looking at where I was walking and I fell off the slope. It wasn’t a big fall, but my leg just went from beneath me. I got straight back up but I knew something wasn’t right, I sat myself down, the next thing I remember is people coming round to check I was ok. My sister and husband tried to get me to lean on them to walk inside, and I just fainted into their arms. Apparently my husband then carried me inside the hotel entrance and a medic came over. I awoke to being sprayed with something up my nose, I had an oxygen mask and people surrounding me as I led on the floor. After a while I felt ok to sit up and my sister went and got me some food and drink. I didn’t feel right, and so they took me upstairs to lie down. We didn’t have our room as we were leaving that day, but my sister was staying longer so I led on her bed. I didn’t want to be on my own, my heart was beating fast, and I was breathing rapidly. I thought it was a panic attack (but actually it was just due to being overly hot, hungry and the fact that I had fainted). I was struggling to eat even though I was hungry and I started worrying about how I was going to be on the way to the airport and on the aeroplane. I didn’t think id be able to go home, but then I knew I couldn’t stay either. My sisters said I needed to sleep to try and feel better. I asked one of them to stay with me at all times, which they did. My family were all such a great support for me.

And in the end I was ok and flew home ok. Apart from that little hitch I had had a great holiday and I had managed it without a panic attack. I felt on top of the world!!

 

Remember if you are feeling anxious or depressed or even just a bit down please talk  to someone, there are so many people out there who care! I am always here for anyone who needs to talk. You are not alone!

ANXIETY

Sertraline

So the doctor prescribed me 50mg of Sertraline to be taken every day at the same time, I decided to take it in a morning when I have my breakfast. The first few days were hard as I was imagining all sorts of side effects, and as when I had taken tablets before for anxiety (propranolol) I was thinking it was going to make me worse. My brain was playing tricks on me again and actually I was ok. Within a couple of weeks I was feeling much better. Over the next few months I saw a massive difference in myself, I was finally able to go to social events that I had been avoiding.

Side effects

One of the side effects of Sertraline is that it numbs your feelings. I have experienced this side effect, in particular when I had my dose increased to 100mg when I was pregnant. This means that when a happy moment occurs I am still happy but can’t feel it the same as I use too. The hardest thing for me is how it stops me from crying. I have been through a lot of stressful and devastating situations in my person life over the last 18 months and although the sertraline helped me get through them it also meant I could not let out all my emotions by crying. I have always been someone who enjoys a good cry to let the emotions that are building up out but now they are just building and building. I can feel in my head that it is full and if I could just cry I could let it all out and feel so much better. That is actually the main reason I came back down to 50mg a few months ago in the hope I would be able to cry – but no such luck.

Another side effect I have found is if I’m a few hours late or I miss my sertraline (this doesn’t happen very often) but I can really tell I have missed it and so can my family. It sends me down a dark whole where I feel like I’m being swallowed by darkness, I really struggle thinking of anything good in my life (even though I know I have many good things).

 

I know a lot of people who think medication is just a placebo affect and to be honest I was probably one of those people but after being on Sertraline for 3 years now I know it definitely works for me. And although I have had these side effects I am so glad I listened to my counsellor and went back to the doctors and asked for Sertraline. My life has changed dramatically and I have been able to go on holiday with my family a few times, I have been numerous days out where I would not have been able too. This has impacted my children lives so much that they can finally be part of a family that goes out on days out rather than their mum not being able to manage it or ruining it while out with panic attacks.

So if you are reading this and considering going to the doctors – I say do it. Counselling and medication have really helped me.

This is not to say anxiety is no longer a problem as it is – it is just managed better!

Thank you for reading.

ANXIETY

CBT again (Part one)

When my CBT finally started I had to go to a new clinic where I had never been before. This just made my anxiety worse, (my first round of it had been at my doctors surgery and the counsellor came there). I worried about where it was, where to park, who to speak too, where to sit in the waiting room. I had to fill in a form each week I went which asked for me to circle an option to how I had been feeling that week when it came to certain situations. Most of my answers were that my anxiety was affecting my life a lot. I answered yes to ‘had I been feeling that my family would be better off without me’. The counsellor I saw on my first visit (on the 2nd time around) was a lady, and she asked all the normal questions and wanted to know about how it had all started. But the way she spoke to me was as though she thought I was stupid for feeling that way and like she didn’t understand at all. This made me shut down and not really want to answer her questions and I didn’t want to volunteer any information about myself and my anxiety. I remember coming home feeling even worse than before I had gone. I didn’t want to ever go back. I thought well if CBT isn’t going to help, then nothing is, and I will be like this forever. That scared me. I felt even lower about myself if that was even possible.

After speaking to my husband and my family about my experience, they suggested ringing up and explaining how I was feeling and asking if my previous counsellor was available to see instead. After a few days of not feeling brave enough to do this, I finally made the call. They got my previous counsellor to give me call and I explained what had happened and why I didn’t want to come back. She put me at ease straight away and said sometimes people just don’t click with a counsellor and its perfectly normal to ask for another counsellor.

After that things went a lot more smoothly, I went after two weeks to see my counsellor. Each time I filled in a form answering the questions and at first I didn’t see any improvement in my answers but after a while I did. She gave me different tasks to do each time. I had to keep a diary entry of my symptoms and thoughts going through my head.

During this time we had a holiday to Centre Parcs again, and when we had arrived we had gone swimming before going to bed. I struggled to sleep that first night (it was the first time I had stayed away from home since my major panic attack that had landed me in hospital). I didn’t have a panic attack but I was definitely anxious. But I kept reminding myself how many times we had been to centre parcs and how much we all loved it. I managed to enjoy the rest of the weekend. When I explained to my counsellor my symptoms of how I was feeling that night she explained that actually those symptoms were normal – I was tired from working all day, then driving there and going straight swimming, I was cold and shaking as my hair was still wet. She said that my mind was putting the symptoms down to anxiety but actually they were just normal. She said I need to retrain my brain to know that sometimes these symptoms were normal and not me beginning to have a panic attack.

 

I will continue on with how my CBT went on my blog…..

ANXIETY

Tips for calming your anxiety

The counsellor gave me many tips and sheets on how to work through your anxiety and panic attacks which I will get on to. But I have found a few of my own

  • Adult colouring books (these are not rude like my husband thought I meant) they are just colouring books for adults and they really help me distract my mind from my anxiety.
  • Watching the soaps and reading as they take you into a different world that is not your own – again distraction
  • If I am in the car I open the window and listen to music
  • Listening to music
  • Listening to you tube channels with a calming voice specifically to calm you from anxiety
  • write down your worries when they come

Now for the counsellors tips:

  • stop and breathe, think you can do this
  • think I have done this before and I can do it again
  • remember how your feeling won’t last forever, it is only temporary
  • Create a worry period, and when a worry comes postpone it till your worry period
  • Breathing exercises
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Use the worry tree

 

The Worry Tree

Notice the worry

“What am I worrying about?”

“Is this worry about a current problem or a hypothetical situation?” or “can I do something about this?”

If the answer is no then:                                                                       If the answer is yes then:

Let the worry go                                                                                      make an action plan

Change your focus of attention                                                            then let the worry go

Change your focus of attention

ANXIETY

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

I finally started my CBT, I felt very anxious about my first one as I was worried about needing the toilet while waiting for my name to be called and that I would miss my name or being in the appointment and needing the toilet and not having the courage to say I needed to go. But I had nothing to worry about as the counsellor straight away put me at ease, she said if I needed to leave that was absolutely fine. The first session was mainly just me explaining what had happened to make me attend CBT. Then over the next few weeks (I had 6 appointments in total) we worked through my thoughts and feelings and how these affected my actions. We talked about how I was avoiding certain situations and how this was not helping. I had homework to complete each week, where I had to keep notes on the thoughts that went through my head, the physical changes that happened to my body and then my actions to try and deal with these.

Each week we would set a target together for me, one week it was to go to my parent in laws and have Sunday dinner and not to sit at the end of the table where it was easy to get out. This was really hard for me as I always needed to know I could get to the toilet quickly, and this was a situation where there was 8 of us in the house with only one toilet and I was going to be sitting where I felt trapped in. But I tried really hard and managed to do this but I did feel very anxious while doing it. At my next session the counsellor explained that although I had felt anxious, I had managed it and nothing bad had happened. She said I was to congratulate myself every time I did something like this and got through it. To be honest I felt a bit silly saying well done to myself but in time I realised that I really needed it to help me succeed.

As my counselling was coming to an end I didn’t feel like I was ok but I felt like I was working towards it and she gave me the tools to help myself. She also gave me handouts to remind myself what I needed to do. The day after my last session we were due to fly to Disneyland Paris (somewhere I had never been and I was very excited to be taking my two little girls, who were 5 and 3 at the time). I was very nervous about the drive to the airport, the flight and then being there. I took toilet roll and spare clothes in the car, my husband drove and I sat on a bin bag just to make myself feel better in case I needed the toilet. We listened to a YouTube calming channel the whole way to keep me calm. I managed it, and every little step I did my husband would tell me well done for reaching that part. Before the flight I must have gone to the toilet about 15 times just to make myself feel better, on the plane I quickly identified where the toilets were and watched intently when people used it and made sure I went regularly. Iv got to say although I kept putting things in place for my anxiety and IBS we did have an amazing time. I got to see my daughters faces when they met Cinderella (one of the best experiences of my life) and their thrill on all the rides. I was so proud of myself after that I had got to share in their happiness with them and that I hadn’t ruined it for them.

For now my anxiety was under control – I was still avoiding social situations and I was putting things in place when I did do stuff (checking for toilets, taking toilet roll with me) but I was coping.

Things were to change again though…

suicide

Suicide – how can we help?

There has been so many suicides on the news recently, especially the local news (Preston) and that is just the ones that make the news. Suicide is so final, there is no coming back from that. I have considered suicide a few times, but mainly by thoughts of ‘if I fell down these stairs now, or if I crashed my car into a tree would everything I’m feeling go away’. But then I realise how silly I am being. I am not calling suicide silly at all, I am calling my thoughts silly as I don’t think I am really serious.

But some people really can’t see another way out. It is these people we need to be finding and supporting. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year things may still be hard but eventually something will change and things will get better. Life is so precious and we need to preserve it.

We are all so busy with our own lives and we all have opinions and views on why someone is smiling, someone is crying, someone is angry – I know I am certainly guilty of judging someone. But actually we never know what is going on in someone’s life, what is going on in their head. Even our friends, our families, our husbands/wives, those people we think we know everything about can have their own battles that they keep hidden.

So what can we do? We can smile at everyone, we can ask if they are ok, we can show that we care, we can share stories of how things get better, we can share stories of how things can be bad – so that they know they are not alone. I am talking about doing this with everyone, even if you think they are very happy as you just don’t know if that is a front they are putting on. We need to show people we have time for them and that we are there for them whenever they need. We need to drop plans sometimes to be there for  people, we need to help people out. Sometimes we need to push our help on someone even when they say they do not need it. But making sure they do have a bit of space.

Mental health services are getting better and there is more help out there now but often people will not ask for help. That is why it is down to everyone to support your friends, families and even strangers.

Let’s try and show people that things can get better and that life is worth living!