Tag Archives: coping

Sanity Breaks

8 Jan

Today’s weather was unseasonably warm. Light jacket, no scarf, no hat. Now, while it wasn’t warm enough for me to go frolicking in the streets of NYC wearing a bikini, the 57 degrees in January did feel pretty great! Before running a few errands and jumping  into my Saturday afternoon, I decided to take what I call my daily “sanity break.” Sanity Breaks are what I jokingly refer to as personal time. Let’s face it, life can be so overwhelming and stressful. With all of the academic, professional, personal, and familial responsibilities we juggle in our daily lives, it’s easy to forget a little self-care. In my opinion, these daily sanity breaks have been key to helping me maintain a healthy mind and body.

The term “psychosomatic” is a term used in psychology to refer to a cognitive theory which in short states: as the mind goes, so does the body. When the mind becomes frazzled and overly stressed, the body will begin to physically manifest these feelings as well. Headaches, body tension, jittery muscles, even stomach nausea can be the body’s way of saying you have reached your emotional limit. As a mild preventative, I’ve found that sanity breaks: allow time away, resulting in a clearer perspective on stressful situations, create space for the calming and re-centering of emotions, and provide opportunities to complete enjoyable tasks which always mean to get done, but are often postponed for things deemed “more important.” Coupled with brief meditations and deliberate deep breathing, sanity breaks have truly helped to keep me, well, SANE! .. LOL :]).

Generally, there is no one way to spend your personal / sanity break time. However, for it to work effectively, you must completely remove yourself (mentally and physically) from any and all stressors. That means no multitasking during lunch hours. No checking or replying to work emails. No wondering about that last item on your “to-do” list. No stressing about what bill to pay or what meal to fix your children for dinner. This self-imposed time-out is all about enjoying you. And no-nonsense about not having enough time to dance in a field of sunflowers for an entire afternoon. I took a quick 15 minutes to enjoy an overly complex Starbucks frappuccino (yes, I’m one of those!) while sitting on a park bench enjoying the breeze. It was glorious and in that little bit of time, I felt rejuvenated and ready to return to the real world to kick some butt! Don’t wait for a near breakdown or some vacation scheduled months out on a calendar to take some much needed selfish time. The relaxation you will feel afterward will be worth it : ])

When was your last “Sanity Break?” .. What sort of things do you enjoy ?

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“Things Fall Apart:” When a Tough Economy, Anxiety, & Medical Stressors Collide

7 Nov

scream blog

For many families, life during these hard economic times can be full of stressful triggers. Putting food on the table, paying the house note, keeping the lights on, getting gas into the car, maintaining your social/love relationships, looking for new work .. all of which can be anxiety provoking. While keeping this scenario in mind, imagine now adding the serious stressor of having a loved one admitted to the hospital or dealing with a new medical illness. It can be enough to literally make you want to pull your hair out! Sadly, this is the reality for many families around the country. If any of this sounds familiar, rest assured that there are resources to help.

1: Sound Mind: Within many hospital settings, there are often well-trained psychologists on staff who are ready and willing to help. They can provide a safe, non-judgmental outlet for you to vent, talk through your fears, address personal challenges, and brainstorm on coping strategies that best fit you. Best of all, these medical psychologists and counseling staff personnel are specially trained to work within the hospital setting to serve those who are affected by the pressures of health concerns. They can offer tools to not only decrease your heightened emotional state, but also ways to promote engaging ill loved ones in a positive way without experiencing what is known as “caregivers fatigue” (when a loved one caring for another becomes physically and emotionally drained).

2: Sound Body: Did you know that many hospitals are now offering spa services? YES! Unbeknownst to many patients and families, a growing number of hospitals around the country are offering holistic services such as: yoga, massage, acupuncture, meditation, dance, and music therapies to name a few. Even beauty enhancement services are becoming increasingly common to address the need of boosting emotional morale. While the primary focus remains treating the illness and ensuring true health, who doesn’t feel better after a nice massage or a few beauty regimes? It reminds families that they are still human and can have a big normalizing effect for everyone who participates.

3: Sound Life: Now that the mind and body have been cared for, what services are available for the other non-medical stressors? With the help of human services, social workers do more than simply help with discharge. They can: work with your doctor and insurance company to ensure care is financially covered as well as make community referrals to assist with securing key needs (such as housing, food, utility support, etc).

In the end, though things may seem bleak, help IS indeed available. Please, if things seem unbearable, reach out to a friend, loved one, doctor, etc … you don’t have to struggle through life’s rough spots alone.

Social Networking: Going to the Next Frontier

7 Nov

In the past ten years, the explosion various social networks have been remarkable. While used for many different reasons, social networking can also have a strong therapeutic value as well. Through monitored social networking and communication applications (such as FaceTime and Skype), those facing isolation due to prolonged hospitalization have the opportunity remain connected to friends and loved ones between visits.

This use of technology, can be especially helpful for children and adolescents. During this stage of development, youth typically are very close to their peers and thrive during socialization. Via this use of technology, children can have a safe vehicle to express fears, stay connected with ongoing life events at home/school, stay connected with siblings, or simply enjoy non-medical conversations with friends who understand them. Social Networking can not only provide much-needed opportunities for peer-to-peer interactions, but overall, it is a great and familiar way for young people to normalize their hospital experience and connect, gaining much-needed emotional support in the process. Ultimately, social networking can be a good choice for the entire family. As seen often times through my work, as children begin to better cope with hospitalization, so do adult caregivers and family members. Stress begins to wain and a return to increasingly positive interactions can resume.

“At the Corner of Nervous and Concerned”

7 Nov

We all know that hospitals can feel like a large overwhelming maze filled with various departments, tons of new faces, and unnerving sights or sounds. One way which adolescents and parents with young children can become familiar with and become more knowledgeable about the medical environment, is through hospital tours. This can be especially helpful for anxious children scheduled for surgery or any procedure requiring overnight stays / hospitalization for any length of time. Not only is everyone able to see the space beforehand, but families also have the opportunity to meet key pediatric staff and ask specific questions that might not have been discussed during the doctor’s visit. Tours are also a great way to learn about rules for your particular pediatric unit, including: security concerns, visiting hours, comfort items that can be brought from home, as well as who can stay overnight with the child.

To schedule a pediatric tour for your family, contact your hospital’s Child Life or Pediatric Department to express interest.

“A Teddy Bear’s Work”

7 Nov

A great way to ease the fears of children who are often anxious about doctor visits is the use of “Medical Play.” Child Life Therapist’s such as myself, believe that through play, children learn and experience the world around them. With this in mind, we often use medical play to teach children about the medical environment in a fun, non-threatening way. Through this sort of unique imaginative play, Child Life Therapists help children address: fears / misconceptions about the hospital setting, questions about medical equipment, the different roles of medical staff, or upcoming tests. Children are able to gain control as they assume the role of doctor and practice on a “patient” (often a stuffed animal) some of the very same routine procedures their own doctor may perform on them. As these sessions involve medical concepts and may raise difficult emotional responses from children and they work through their concerns. All play therapy / medical play session should be conducted by a trained (licenced or certified) professional.

Overall, when children are able to rehearse various aspects of the medical environment , they are more likely to feel in control and are able cope better than children with little to no preparation education. Doctor visits do NOT have to be stressful moments filled with screams. With a little prep-work and lots of emotional support from caregivers, even the littlest patient can head home with less tears.

For additional information regarding medical play or to discuss if medical play therapy might be a helpful option for your child, please feel free to reach me via the “Contact” tab above.