Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

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Teaching To Students’ “Learning Styles”: A Myth Busted?

Learning-stylesSOURCE CREDIT: Is Teaching to a Student’s “Learning Style” a Bogus Idea?  Many researchers have suggested that differences in students’ learning styles may be as important as ability, but empirical evidence is thin: By Sophie Guterl Scientific American Sept 20 2013

ARE THERE INDIVIDUAL LEARNING STYLES? Students are adamant they learn best visually or by hearing a lesson or by reading, and so forth. And while some educators advocate teaching methods that take advantage of differences in the way students learn, some psychologists take issue with the idea that learning style makes any significant difference in the classroom.Image: Alexander Iwan/Flickr

Ken Gibson was an advanced reader in elementary school and easily retained much of what he read. But when the teacher would stand him up in front of the class to read a report out loud, he floundered. His classmates, he noticed, also had their inconsistencies. Some relished oral presentations but took forever to read a passage on their own; others had a hard time following lectures. Gibson now explains these discrepancies as “learning styles” that differ from one student to the next. He founded a company, LearningRx, on the premise that these styles make a difference in how students learn.

The idea that learning styles vary among students has taken off in recent years. Many teachers, parents and students are adamant that they learn best visually or by hearing a lesson or by reading, and so forth. And some educators have advocated teaching methods that take advantage of differences in the way students learn. But some psychologists take issue with the idea that learning style makes any significant difference in the classroom.

There is no shortage of ideas in the professional literature. David Kolb of Case Western Reserve University posits that personality divides learners into categories based on how actively or observationally they learn and whether they thrive on abstract concepts or concrete ones. Another conjecture holds that sequential learners understand information best when it is presented one step at a time whereas holistic learners benefit more from seeing the big picture. Psychologists have published at least 71 different hypotheseson learning styles.

Frank Coffield, professor of education at the University of London, set out to find commonalities among the many disparate ideas about learning style using a sample comprising 13 models. The findings, published in 2004, found that only three tests for learning styles met their criteria for both validity and reliability, meaning that the tests both measured what they intended to measure and yielded consistent results. Among the many competing ideas, Coffield and his colleagues found no sign pointing to an overarching model of learning styles.

In 2002 Gibson, after a brief career as a pediatric optometrist, started LearningRx, a nontraditional tutoring organization, based on the idea that different people rely on particular cognitive skills that are strongest. For instance, visual learners understand lessons best when they are presented via images or a slide show; auditory learners benefit more from lectures; kinesthetic learners prefer something concrete, such as building a diorama. “We have a natural tendency to use the skills that are strongest,” Gibson says. “That becomes our learning style.”

LearningRx trainers use cognitive skill assessments similar to IQ tests to identify a student’s areas of cognitive strengths and weaknesses—some people might be strong at memorizing written words or weak at doing mathematical computations in their heads. Then they administer “brain training” exercises designed to improve students’ weakest skills. Such exercises might involve a trainer asking a student to quickly answer a series of math problems in his head.

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Daniel Willingham, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia and outspoken skeptic of learning styles, argues that Gibson and other cognitive psychologists are mistaken to equate cognitive strengths with learning styles. The two, Willingham says, are different: Whereas cognitive ability clearly affects the ability to learn, an individual’s style doesn’t. “You can have two basketball players, for example, with a different style. One is very conservative whereas the other is a real risk-taker and likes to take crazy shots and so forth, but they might be equivalent in ability.”

As Willingham points out, the idea that ability affects performance in the classroom is not particularly surprising. The more interesting question is whether learning styles, as opposed to abilities, make a difference in the classroom. Would educators be more effective if they identified their students’ individual styles and catered their lessons to them?

The premise should be testable, Willingham says. “The prediction is really straightforward: If you appeal to a person’s style versus going against his preferred style, that should make a difference for learning outcomes,” he says.

Harold Pashler of the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues searched the research literature for exactly this kind of empirical evidence. They couldn’t find any. One study they reviewed compared participants’ scores on the Verbalizer–Visualizer Questionnaire, a fifteen-item survey of true-or-false questions evaluating whether someone prefers auditory or optical information, with their scores on memory tests after presenting words via either pictures or verbal reading. On average, participants performed better on the free-recall test when they were shown images, regardless of their preferences.

Some studies claimed to have demonstrated the effectiveness of teaching to learning styles, although they had small sample sizes, selectively reported data or were methodologically flawed. Those that were methodologically sound found no relationship between learning styles and performance on assessments. Willingham and Pashler believe that learning styles is a myth perpetuated merely by sloppy research and confirmation bias.

Despite the lack of empirical evidence for learning styles, Gibson continues to think of ability and preference as being one and the same. Trainers at LearningRx ask their clients to describe their weaknesses, then measure their cognitive abilities using theWoodcock–Johnson Test. “Just by someone telling us what’s easy and hard for them, we can pretty well know where the deficiencies are,” he says. “Eighty-five to 90 percent of the time the symptoms and the test results are right on.”

When teachers wonder how to present a lesson to kids with a range of abilities, they may not find the answer in established learning style approaches. Instead, Willingham suggests keeping it simple. “It’s the material, not the differences among the students, that ought to be the determinant of how the teacher is going to present a lesson,” he says. For example, if the goal is to teach students the geography of South America, the most effective way to do so across the board would be by looking at a map instead of verbally describing the shape and relative location of each country. “If there’s one terrific way that captures a concept for almost everybody, then you’re done.”

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September 20, 2013 Posted by | brain, Children, Cognition, Education, research | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chore Wars: A New Hope (Or “How To Get Your Kids To Help Out At Home”)

imagesSource Credit : Should Kids Help with Family Chores 
By Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D.  at www.PerfectingParentingPress.com 

Many parents wonder if they should expect their kids to take on household responsibilities. Even though parents report that their children are willing to help out when asked – or even volunteer to do a job – many families don’t ask their children to take on regular chores. Some think it’s not worth the potential conflict and nagging, and feel it’s easier to do the chores themselves. Some feel children don’t do the jobs well enough anyhow. Some parents feel their children are too busy. Other parents can’t see the value of teaching children to do chores. And some parents resented having to do chores growing up. In households where paid housecleaners and gardeners do the chores, it may not fit easily into the routine to assign tasks to the children.

But there is real value in having children shoulder their share of the work. Here are five reasons:

  • Doing chores together helps build the spirit of “family,” enabling kids to see that everyone has to do his share. We don’t want our kids to believe that it’s adults’ job to do all the work. Teaching the habit of pitching in with tasks encourages a child to step up and do his part – rather then doing as little as possible – at home, in others’ homes, and in the community.
  • Children learn their parents’ standards and work ethic when their parents teach them to do chores.  We don’t want our children to learn to take the easy way out and do jobs in a halfhearted way. Too many parents complain that their school-age children aren’t motivated and won’t try their best at schoolwork, sports, projects, etc. Family jobs have great value as a way to help our children internalize the standard of working hard at a job.
  • Getting kids accustomed to doing chores helps them learn patience and perseverance. You’ll be able to see the results when your child has to wait while you talk to a neighbor or tackles a school assignment that he isn’t enthusiastic about.
  • Some children don’t know what to do with themselves when they’re not being entertained, and complain about being bored if they’re not having fun every minute. Chores help children realize that doing ordinary and even tedious tasks are part of life, which helps them appreciate the activities that are fun and amusing.
  • Doing family tasks helps children learn how to thrive with the independence they’ll need in college and adult life, with less of a learning curve when they need to prepare food, do laundry, and eventually take care of their home.
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If you want to build family chores into your kids’ lives, here are answers to the important questions.

  • At what age? Toddlers and preschoolers love to imitate you and to help you, but can’t be counted on to do jobs regularly or well enough. Still, we should encourage them and praise their help. By starting at this young age when they’re eager, you get them accustomed to pitching in, and by five years old they can start doing regular family tasks.
  • How frequently? Daily jobs (seven days a week) work best so they become part of a regular routine; then kids are less likely to argue and negotiate about those jobs on Mondays – after the weekend off.
  • What kinds of jobs? (Children three and over can do some of these on an occasional basis. Kids five and older are able to do any of these jobs on a regular basis.) Most of the jobs should be about five minutes. Look at the kitchen first. There’s lots to do there: Setting the table. Bringing the serving platters to the table. Rinsing dishes. Washing and drying pots. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. Then look at all the jobs involving garbage: Dumping garbage from the wastebaskets throughout the house. Dumping the kitchen garbage into the bigger garbage cans. Putting cans outside for pickup. Look at the possible recycling jobs. There are also plenty of laundry jobs. And vacuuming individual rooms and cleaning sinks, etc., are also worthwhile tasks. Cooking probably shouldn’t count as a job, because it’s fun for most kids.
  • How many jobs? Elementary school children can do one or two jobs a day, increasing to three or four for teens. Even busy kids can spare these few minutes, especially if everyone in the family has jobs to do – including parents, of course.
  • Should kids keep these jobs forever? No, every month or two, have the kids look at your master list of chores; offer them the chance to keep them, to trade jobs with their siblings, or to choose new ones. Doing chores is more interesting when they get to do something new, and it allows parents to teach kids different skills.
  • Should you give children an allowance for doing family tasks? We’ve all heard the two sides. Allowance should be tied to the chores children actually do, or the allowance should be completely unrelated to doing chores. (Of course, some families do not give an allowance at all.) My advice is that it’s valuable for your child to connect being responsible for doing work with receiving a monetary reward.  If we lived in a culture with few things to buy, few ads, few choices, then money wouldn’t be that important. But our children want to have things – lots of things – and most get interested in money sometime during the elementary school years. Children’s endless desire to buy new things is a major issue for parents to provide guidance on. Children should be learning that it takes work to earn money to buy things and that money doesn’t come too easily. (As you know, young children think money just comes from the bank or out of the ATM.) It takes years before children realize that you can’t just go to any bank and be handed money.
  • How much allowance should kids get? This differs a lot depending on your community, the ages of the children, and how many jobs they do. Check with other parents and teachers to get an idea of the community standard. Assuming the older children in your family are doing more work, they should get a bigger allowance. (With age usually comes more privilege and more responsibility.) Teaching chores is much more successful when parents set up a chart for kids five years and older so they can check off their jobs each day. Then allowance is paid only for jobs done. Make sure you set a time to go over what they earned and didn’t earn that week. (Lots of families need to set a consistent weekly time or else the whole plan falls apart, and kids go back to not doing regular family chores.) Either give them the money to put “in their bank” or keep a tally. Many parents have started their children on chores and not followed through. Parents feel disappointed in themselves and their children when they give up on their parenting plans, and children lose some of their trust and confidence in their parents.
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What can they spend their money on? 

Parents should allow increased decision-making around spending as children get older. As kids are starting regular chores and allowance, you’ll need some guidelines about their spending. You might want to start with only the first category, but within a few years, consider dividing the money into three categories: inexpensive purchases, more expensive purchases that kids need to save for, and charitable contributions. Parents usually decide the percentage for each category with increasing input from kids as they get older. Parents are the gatekeepers even on the inexpensive purchases until children are about ten years old. When children want to buy something, you can help them by talking to them about how to decide whether they should spend their money on “that” or not. You can teach them how to judge an item’s quality,

and

whether it’s an acceptable purchase based on your family values (such as toy guns – yes or no – or whether the child already has similar toys). In short, we want to teach them to be thoughtful, not impulsive, consumers. If we do a good job, we won’t have to keep giving them money when they’re 40!

Annye Rothenberg, Ph.D., author, has been a child/parent psychologist and a specialist in childrearing and development of young children for more than 25 years. Her parenting psychology practice is in Emerald Hills, California. She is also on the adjunct faculty in pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Rothenberg was the founder/director of the Child Rearing parenting program in Palo Alto, California, and is the author of the award-winning books Mommy and Daddy are Always Supposed to Say Yes … Aren’t They?, Why Do I Have To?I Like To Eat Treats,I Don’t Want to Go to the Toilet, I Want To Make Friends and the just-released I’m Getting Ready For Kindergarten. These are all-in-one books with a story for young children and a manual for parents. For more information about her books and to read her articles, visit www.PerfectingParentingPress.com. To find out about her counseling practice and her speaker presentations, go to www.PerfectingParentingPress.com/about_author.html.

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September 19, 2013 Posted by | Adolescence, Books, Child Behavior, Children, Parenting, Teens | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Bad Habits Broken Here! 4 Steps To Breaking The ‘Habit Loop’

habitsSOURCE AND AUTHOR CREDIT: Put Your Habits to Work for You: Your worst habits can become your best friends Published on June 26, 2012 by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. in Fulfillment at Any Age at Psychology Today

Victimized by your bad habits? Believe that you’re stuck with them for life? According to Charles Duhigg, a well-respected author and New York Times columnist, you may want to hone rather than scrap your well-polished sequences of behavior. Habits can be put to either good or bad use, depending on the situation. At their worst, they cause destructive, addictions and dependence. At their best, habits allow you to boost your efficiency and effectiveness.

The term “habit” has acquired a bad reputation because it is associated either with addiction or mindlessness. However, because habits can routinize the boring and mundane aspects of your life, they are among the most efficient and effective of all the behaviors in your repertoire.  They allow you to offload your mental energy from routine daily tasks so you can devote more resources to the tasks that require real thought and creativity. They can also, despite what you may have been told, be controlled.

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In his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg takes us through a compelling personal and scientific narrative that, dare I say it, proves to be habit-forming on its own.  The doubter in you will be convinced by the many examples he provides of successful habit use that include corporate marketing, promotion of pop songs, overhauls of big business, and resounding of sports teams. He also shows us the downside of habits when they lead to inflexibility and inability to respond to changing circumstances among everyone from hospital workers to London Tube employees. As is true for the most tormented drug addict, it may take a crisis to break through the dysfunctional habits built into a large organization when its employees become too locked into “business as usual.”

The key to unlocking the power of habit for you is to understand that habits are formed and maintained through a cyclical process called a “habit loop.” Your habit loop begins to form when a behavior you perform leads to an outcome that you desire. If you want to get that reward again, you’ll repeat the behavior. Then, for the loop to be complete, you also need a cue to trigger your craving for the desired outcome.

There are plenty of examples throughout the book of habit loops for everything from winning the Super Bowl to improving safety records at an aluminum plant. Of the many compelling examples, perhaps the easiest to summarize here are is the habit loop involving the mall-based Cinnabon stores, those ubiquitous purveyors of some of the most dangerous food on the planet.  The habit, in this case, is eating the delicious calorie-packed morsel. The reward is the pleasure that comes from eating it. The cue—and this is the main thing— is the smell. As you’re making your way from Foot Locker to the Gap, that cinnamon scent hits you with full force. You may have no interest whatsoever at the moment in having a snack, and in fact have sworn off all sweets, but then that unmistakable scent overwhelms you and puts you under its spell. Your brain wants that treat and nothing else in the world can shut down that need (or so you feel at the time).  You stop everything and grab that Cinnabon, knowing that you’ve just made it that much harder to fit into those chinos you were planning to buy at the Gap.

This diagram shows the general habit loop. The Cinnabon loop works like this: Cue (Cinnabon scent)–> Routine (eating Cinnabon) –> Reward (sweet taste) –> Cue (next time you smell the scent). In a true addiction, you may not even wait until the scent hits you between the nostrils. You only have to imagine the scent, and it’s off to the next Cinnabon store you can find. The book is sprinkled with simple diagrams such as the basic habit loop shown here that cleverly and clearly illustrate the main points.Marketers capitalize on the habit-producing nature of powerful product cues.  Duhigg chronicles case after case of advertising campaigns designed to create cravings that make you want something you didn’t even know you needed.  For example, the rewarding feeling of being “clean” leads us to purchase products from toothpaste to air fresheners to produce that sensation over and over again, even if we’re not particularly dirty.  The product labels become the cues that trigger the craving, which in turn leads to the habit, which in turn leads to the reward, and so on.  Advertisers have convinced us that we not only have to be clean, but we need to feel clean, preferably with their trademarked products.

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Businesses can also capitalize on the habitual behaviors of their customers to market strategically to people who show predictable patterns of behavior.  Ever wonder why certain ads pop up on certain websites or why you keep getting coupons in the mail perfectly targeted to your needs? As Duhigg shows, marketers have figured out how to read not only your keystrokes but your habitual browsing and shopping habits. It may creep you out to think that Target knows a woman is pregnant by her shopping habits, but by using the psychology of habits, that is just what Target (and many other businesses) do to pinpoint your buying needs.  Fair warning: if you’re convinced that corporate conspiracies reside everywhere, you may want to skip some of these chapters or you’ll never set foot in a store again. Of course, that would be unreasonable, so you should read these chapters and at least you’ll understand both the how and the why of the many ways that advertisers manipulate us.

Lest you wonder, at this point, whether my blog’s title was false advertising, rest assured that there is plenty of good that our habits can do for us. Duhigg shows, again in fascinating detail, that the very habit loops that lead us to buy products that we don’t need can also lead us to become capable of remarkable successes. For example, it’s valuable to have an automatic response to an emergency situation for which there’s no time to think. You want to get your hand out of the way of a closing car door before you have time to ponder your course of action. It’s also helpful to relegate repeated and mundane behaviors to habit status so that you can think about other things. For example, while folding all that laundry you’re folding because you’re programmed by advertisers to do the laundry, you don’t have to think in detail about your actions. You can think about something else.  If you had to stop and ponder every habitual action you complete over the course of your daily routines, you’d never be able to reflect on how to solve the real problems that face you at your work or in your close relationships. When you’re riding the elevator or walking to work, it’s helpful that you can put your brain on autopilot while you figure out how you’re going to settle the argument you’re having with your best friend.

Your habit loops can give your brain a break when you need it for real work, then, but they can also pave the way for you to get rid of the habits you want to change or eliminate. This is particularly true of addictions. Let’s take the case of problem gambling. According to Duhigg, one of the most significant contributors to problem gambling is not that gamblers win (otherwise casinos wouldn’t make a profit!). No, the main contributor to problem gambling is the near win. In a near win, you get, for example, 2 out of 3 matches on a slot machine. You’re not actually being rewarded, then, for your gambling habit, but because you see yourself as so closeto winning you become convinced that you’ll certainly win the next time around. Small wins can actually set you up for big habits that you’ll find almost impossible to break. However, habit change is not completely impossible.

Using the psychology of the habit loop, change becomes possible when you use the cue to trigger a new behavior that itself leads to a reward, perhaps different than the original reward, but a reward nevertheless.  Problem gamblers see the near win as a reason to keep gambling. Non-problem gamblers reward themselves for the near win (which they correctly interpret as a loss) by leaving the casino without losing more of their money. Understand the cues that trigger the behavior, substitute a new routine, and make sure that the new routine reaps its own reward. You’ll soon be craving the reward produced by the new routine, according to this logic.

On that note, Duhigg provides a 4-step plan for breaking a bad habit loop and substituting it with one designed to produce new habits that will benefit your mental and physical health. Unfortunately, habits are harder to break than to build, but this 4-step program can get you going in the right direction.

  1. Identify the cue, routine, and reward. Draw your own habit loop for the behavior you’re trying to change. As is true for mindful eating, just thinking about what you’re doing can often stimulate habit change right then and there. Your habit changes to eating less, or more healthily, when you realize what’s triggering your bad snacking habits.
  2. Find alternative rewards. Winning is clearly a reward for gambling, but for problem gamblers, near wins begin to take on highly rewarding value. To stop the gambling you need to find an outcome that will be even more rewarding for you. Because everyone’s reward structure is slightly different, you need to determine which reward will lead to the new craving that triggers the new, non-gambling, behavior.
  3. Figure out the actual cue. You may think that your constant online shoe shopping is due to a desire to look stylish, but perhaps there’s something else that triggers this habit of overspending. Using a tried and true method in behavior analysis, isolate the actual cue among the many possible stimuli operating on you when the habit kicks in. Duhigg suggests that you go 5 for 5 on this and look at the possible 5 categories of cues: location, time, emotional state, other people, and the immediately preceding action. Your desire to fill your closet may have nothing to do with your wanting to dress to impress but instead because you feel lonely, anxious, or spend time with friends who themselves are overly preoccupied with appearance.
  4. Make a plan to change. You may think that you can’t control your habits, but if you anticipate your characteristic response to a situation, you can change that response. Let’s say that you’re most likely to drink too much when you’re watching your favorite sports on TV, perhaps just because you needed something to do instead of just sitting there. Make a plan so that when the game is on you’ve got another activity you can engage in that would also give you something to do, particularly during the lulls in the action when your habitual response was to take another swig of beer. It could be playing an online (non-gambling) game, doing a crossword puzzle, or reading a magazine. By building a reward into the new behavior (doing something enjoyable while bored) you are increasing the chances that, over time, you can instill a new and healthier habit.

There’s no reason to let your habits dominate and possible ruin your life. Instead, you can use them to build large gains on small wins, redirect behavioral sequences that cause you to become addicted and improve your mental productivity. Old habits die hard, but they can die.

Follow Susan Krauss Whitbourne on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join her Facebook group, “Fulfillment at Any Age,” 

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne 2012

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September 17, 2013 Posted by | Addiction, Books, brain, Cognition | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Infatuation: Can You Trust The Emotional Rush Of New Love?

imagesSOURCE CREDIT: The Deceptive Power of Love’s First Moments: Published on July 13, 2012 by Susan Heitler, Ph.D. in Resolution, Not Conflict at Psychology Today

Infatuation stimulates fantasies of permanent bonding.

New love is the ultimate turn on. In the first moments and days of love, the neuro-chemicals that create feelings of happiness all explode out the starter gate.  But does an explosion of happiness chemicals that triggers the thought “I want this person to be in my life forever!” necessarily mean that you and your new love would in fact make good chemistry together forever?Before you make a mad dash to the altar, better read on.

Why do decisions to marry that are made in the early exciting stage of love, the stage of infatuation, so often turn out to be a big mistake?

I recently read an exceptionally clear explanation.

Early romantic experiences leave a lasting imprint on who we are—and who we fall for.

Chana Levitan is the author of a particularly helpful ‘Is this the right one for me to marry?’ book.  I Only Want To Get Married Once explains that infatuation is “ the spark at the beginning” that suddenly ignites with a new person or in a situation that has newly switched from businesslike or friendship to romantic and sexualized. Because that spark, that sparkling, delightfully sexually intense feeling when you first fall in love, feels so good, you are likely to want the feeling to last forever.

Alas, it won’t.

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Levitan explains that no matter how good the match, the strong sexualized draw of infatuation, even in the best of marriages, is only a temporary phenomenon associated with newness and insecurity.

Levitan quotes the research of psychologist Dorothy Tennov who found that the duration of infatuation typically lasts at most “between approximately 18 months and three years.” Circumstances like a long-distance relationship or chronic relationship insecurity may articfically extend the tingling phenomenon, at the cost of delaying the shift either into a departure from the relationship or into commitment to a mature and reliable love partnership.

Infatuation also poses a second trap. It’s easy to confuse loving the feeling of infatuation with the totally separate issue of how loving you are likely to feel toward that person after the infatuation has worn off. 

Love is blind while you are in the intital infatuation stage.  After that, clarity about reality tends to emerge. Continuing to love someone is likely to depend on how suitable that person is as a partner in the project of living.

Fortunately, it’s possible to look ahead even when you are feeling swept off your feet.  Your capacity for longer range vision can help you evaluate if the person you love so intensely today is likely to become a burden or an asset over time.  Does your current infatuation seem to be with someone who will turn into a stranger from a strange land or someone with whom openness, intimacy and a shared life style would be possible? Would that person be a supportive partner or a controlling tyrant?

Levitan offers a handy list of five signs suggest that an infatuation is not to be trusted. Here goes her Five Signs list:

  1. The infatuation is the whole relationship. There’s nothing else there. No shared vision or values of the life pathways you both want. Minimal shared interests. Not much to talk about after the initial getting-to-know-you conversations.
  2. You’re so caught up in the chemistry of initial attraction that you can’t, or don’t want to, see who the person really is.
  3. You’re infatuated and at the same time know that the person is bad for you.
  4. You’re moving toward marriage but find yourself thinking about someone you’ve dated in the past, or looking at others you might date in the future.
  5. You know at some level that you are wasting your time enjoying being infatuated with someone whom you wouldn’t want to marry.
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Is infatuation a reliable guide?

So are all initial strong feelings untrustworthy?  Absolutely not. Strong feelings alone do not a good match make, but strong feelings plus good sense can enable couples to make a marriage choice early on that leads to a relationship that proves to be long-lasting and ever-loving. I knew the man I married for less than two months, and was thoroughly infatuated, when we decided to wed. Now, forty years, four children and ten grandchildren later I’m still thrilled with my choice of mates.Who to marry is the single most important decision a person makes in their life. It’s especially important, as Levitan puts it so nicely in the title of her book, “I Only Want to Get Married Once.”  So pick thoughtfully. And once you’ve picked, make sure to learn the communication skills for marriage success!

Susan Heitler, PhD is a clinical psychologist in Denver who specializes in helping couples to build strong and loving partnerships. Her book The Power of Two is the basis for the fun interactive online marriage education program PowerOfTwoMarriage.com.

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September 16, 2013 Posted by | Books, Identity, Intimate Relationshps, Marriage, Resilience, Sex & Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anxiety: Top Tips To Calm You Down NOW

peace-thoughtsSOURCE CREDIT: PsychCentral
9 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Right Here, Right Now
September 14, 2013 at 10:35 am
Written by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

When you’re feeling anxious, you might feel stuck and unsure of how to feel better. You might even do things that unwittingly fuel your anxiety. You might hyperfocus on the future, and get carried away by a slew of what-ifs.

What if I start to feel worse? What if they hate my presentation? What if she sees me sweating? What if I bomb the exam? What if I don’t get the house?

You might judge and bash yourself for your anxiety. You might believe your negative, worst-case scenario thoughts are indisputable facts.

Thankfully, there are many tools and techniques you can use to manage anxiety effectively. Below, experts shared healthy ways to cope with anxiety right here, right now.

1. Take a deep breath.

“The first thing to do when you get anxious is to breathe,” said Tom Corboy, MFT, the founder and executive director of the OCD Center of Los Angeles, and co-author of the upcoming book The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a powerful anxiety-reducing technique because it activates the body’s relaxation response. It helps the body go from the fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system to the relaxed response of the parasympathetic nervous system, said Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, LLC.

She suggested this practice: “Try slowly inhaling to a count of 4, filling your belly first and then your chest, gently holding your breath to a count of 4, and slowly exhaling to a count of 4 and repeat several times.”

2. Accept that you’re anxious.

Remember that “anxiety is just a feeling, like any other feeling,” said Deibler, also author of the Psych Central blog “Therapy That Works.” By reminding yourself that anxiety is simply an emotional reaction, you can start to accept it, Corboy said.

Acceptance is critical because trying to wrangle or eliminate anxiety often worsens it. It just perpetuates the idea that your anxiety is intolerable, he said.

But accepting your anxiety doesn’t mean liking it or resigning yourself to a miserable existence.

“It just means you would benefit by accepting reality as it is – and in that moment, reality includes anxiety. The bottom line is that the feeling of anxiety is less than ideal, but it is not intolerable.”

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3. Realize that your brain is playing tricks on you.

Psychiatrist Kelli Hyland, M.D., has seen first-hand how a person’s brain can make them believe they’re dying of a heart attack when they’re actually having a panic attack. She recalled an experience she had as a medical student.

“I had seen people having heart attacks and look this ill on the medical floors for medical reasons and it looked exactly the same. A wise, kind and experienced psychiatrist came over to [the patient] and gently, calmly reminded him that he is not dying, that it will pass and his brain is playing tricks on him. It calmed me too and we both just stayed with him until [the panic attack] was over.”

Today, Dr. Hyland, who has a private practice in Salt Lake City, Utah, tells her patients the same thing. “It helps remove the shame, guilt, pressure and responsibility for fixing yourself or judging yourself in the midst of needing nurturing more than ever.”

4. Question your thoughts.

“When people are anxious, their brains start coming up with all sorts of outlandish ideas, many of which are highly unrealistic and unlikely to occur,” Corboy said. And these thoughts only heighten an individual’s already anxious state.

For instance, say you’re about to give a wedding toast. Thoughts like “Oh my God, I can’t do this. It will kill me” may be running through your brain.

Remind yourself, however, that this isn’t a catastrophe, and in reality, no one has died giving a toast, Corboy said.

“Yes, you may be anxious, and you may even flub your toast. But the worst thing that will happen is that some people, many of whom will never see you again, will get a few chuckles, and that by tomorrow they will have completely forgotten about it.”

Deibler also suggested asking yourself these questions when challenging your thoughts:

  • “Is this worry realistic?
  • Is this really likely to happen?
  • If the worst possible outcome happens, what would be so bad about that?
  • Could I handle that?
  • What might I do?
  • If something bad happens, what might that mean about me?
  • Is this really true or does it just seem that way?
  • What might I do to prepare for whatever may happen?”
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5. Use a calming visualization.

Hyland suggested practicing the following meditation regularly, which will make it easier to access when you’re anxious in the moment.

“Picture yourself on a river bank or outside in a favorite park, field or beach. Watch leaves pass by on the river or clouds pass by in the sky. Assign [your] emotions, thoughts [and] sensations to the clouds and leaves, and just watch them float by.”

This is very different from what people typically do. Typically, we assign emotions, thoughts and physical sensations certain qualities and judgments, such as good or bad, right or wrong, Hyland said. And this often amplifies anxiety. Remember that “it is all just information.”

6. Be an observer — without judgment.

Hyland gives her new patients a 3×5 index card with the following written on it: “Practice observing (thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, judgment) with compassion, or without judgment.”

“I have had patients come back after months or years and say that they still have that card on their mirror or up on their car dash, and it helps them.”

7. Use positive self-talk.

Anxiety can produce a lot of negative chatter. Tell yourself “positive coping statements,” Deibler said. For instance, you might say, “this anxiety feels bad, but I can use strategies to manage it.”

8. Focus on right now.

“When people are anxious, they are usually obsessing about something that might occur in the future,” Corboy said. Instead, pause, breathe and pay attention to what’s happening right now, he said. Even if something serious is happening, focusing on the present moment will improve your ability to manage the situation, he added.

9. Focus on meaningful activities.

When you’re feeling anxious, it’s also helpful to focus your attention on a “meaningful, goal-directed activity,” Corboy said. He suggested asking yourself what you’d be doing if you weren’t anxious.

If you were going to see a movie, still go. If you were going to do the laundry, still do it.

“The worst thing you can do when anxious is to passively sit around obsessing about how you feel.” Doing what needs to get done teaches you key lessons, he said: getting out of your head feels better; you’re able to live your life even though you’re anxious; and you’ll get things done.

“The bottom line is, get busy with the business of life. Don’t sit around focusing on being anxious – nothing good will come of that.”

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor at Psych Central and blogs regularly about eating and self-image issues on her own blog, Weightless.
APA Reference Tartakovsky, M. (2013). 9 Ways to Reduce Anxiety Right Here, Right Now. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 14, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/9-ways-to-reduce-anxiety-right-here-right-now/00017762
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Sep 2013 Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

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September 15, 2013 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, anxiety, brain, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, mood, Resources, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Finding Happiness: 4 Affective Profiles To Help You Discover Strategies That Will Work For You

happiness-2SOURCE CREDIT: PsychCentral News : Research Finds Proven Strategies to Up Happiness, Life Satisfaction By  Senior News Editor : Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 11, 2013

READ THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE HERE FOR MORE DETAIL

Researchers have created four affective profiles that may help individuals improve the quality of their lives.

The profiles came from a research study of the self-reports of 1,400 US residents regarding positive and negative emotions.

Investigators believe the affective profiles can be used to discern differences in happiness, depression, life satisfaction and happiness-increasing strategies.

A central finding is that the promotion of positive emotions can positively influence a depressive-to-happy state — defined as increasing levels of happiness and decreasing levels of depression — as well as increase life satisfaction.

The study, published in the open access peer-reviewed scientific journal PeerJ, targets some of the important aspects of mental health that represent positive measures of well-being.

Brilliant Book! Click Image To Read Reviews and For More Detail

Brilliant Book! Click Image To Read Reviews and For More Detail

Happiness, for example, can be usefully understood as the opposite of depression, say the authors. Life satisfaction, another positive measure of well-being, refers instead to a comparison process in which individuals assess the quality of their lives on the basis of their own self-imposed standards.

Researchers posit that as people adopt strategies to increase their overall well-being, it is important to know which ones are capable of having a positive influence.

“We examined 8 ‘happiness-increasing’ strategies which were first identified by Tkach & Lyubomirsky in 2006″, said Danilo Garcia from the University of Gothenburg and the researcher leading the investigation.

“These were Social Affiliation (for example, “Support and encourage friends”), Partying and Clubbing (for example, “Drink alcohol”), Mental Control (for example, “Try not to think about being unhappy”), and Instrumental Goal Pursuit (for example, “Study”).

Additional strategies include: Passive Leisure (for example, “Surf the internet”), Active Leisure (for example, “Exercise”), Religion (for example, “Seek support from faith”) and Direct Attempts (for example, “Act happy and smile”).”

The researchers found that individuals with different affective profiles did indeed differ in the positive measures of well-being and all 8 strategies being studied.

For example, individuals classified as self-fulfilling — high positive emotions and low negative emotions — were the ones who showed lower levels of depression, tended to be happier, and were more satisfied with their lives.

Researchers found that specific happiness-increasing strategies were related to self-directed actions aimed at personal development or personally chosen goals. For example, autonomy, responsibility, self-acceptance, intern locus of control, and self-control.

Communal, or social affiliations, and spiritual values were positively related to a ‘self-fulfilling’ profile.

“This was the most surprising finding, because it supports suggestions about how self-awareness based on the self, our relation to others, and our place on earth might lead to greater happiness and mental harmony within the individual” said Garcia.

Source: Peerj

READ THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE HERE FOR MORE DETAIL

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September 15, 2013 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Books, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, happiness, Health Psychology, Identity, Mindfulness, mood, Positive Psychology, research, Resources | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

OCD: Antidepressant Treatment Augmented By Behavioural Intervention Proven More Effective

r302979_1317871Source Credit: ScienceDaily – Exposure/Ritual Prevention Therapy Boosts Antidepressant Treatment of OCD

READ THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE HERE

Sep. 12, 2013 — NIMH grantees have demonstrated that a form of behavioral therapy can augment antidepressant treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) better than an antipsychotic. The researchers recommend that this specific form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) — exposure and ritual prevention — be offered to OCD patients who don’t respond adequately to treatment with an antidepressant alone, which is often the case. Current guidelines favor augmentation with antipsychotics.

(EDIT- FROM JOURNAL ARTICLE- description of CBT intervention: 

EX/RP Augmentation

Patients randomized to EX/RP received 17 twice-weekly 90- minute sessions delivered over 8 weeks by
a study therapist. Treatment included 2 introductory sessions, 15 exposure sessions (during which
patients faced their obsessional fears for a prolonged period without ritualizing), daily homework
(at least 1 hour of self-directed exposures daily), and between- session telephone check-ins.16 At least 2 sessions occurred outside the clinic to promote generalization to daily life. The goal was for patients to stop their rituals as early in treatment as possible; patients were asked to try refraining from ritualizing after the first exposure session. Formal cognitive therapy procedures were not used, but dysfunctional cognitions were discussed within the context of exposure.)

Click Image To Read Reviews. My Favourite Resource For OCD. New Edition Includes Mindfulness Strategies

Click Image To Read Reviews. My Favourite Resource For OCD. New Edition Includes Mindfulness Strategies

In the controlled trial with 100 antidepressant-refractory OCD patients, 80 percent of those who received CBT responded, compared to 23 percent of those who received the antipsychotic risperidone, and 15 percent of those who received placebo pills. Forty-three percent experienced symptoms reduced to a minimal level following CBT treatment, compared to 13 percent for risperidone and 5 percent for placebo.

The study, published September 11, 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry, was led by Helen Blair Simpson, M.D., of Columbia University, in New York City; and Edna Foa, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

In an accompanying editorial, grantees Kerry Ressler, M.D., and Barbara Rothbaum, Ph.D., of Emory University, Atlanta, note that antidepressants are effective in treating only a subset of OCD patients. They add that the targeted form of CBT works via different mechanisms — such as retraining the brain’s habit-forming circuitry to unlearn compulsive rituals.

Matthew Rudorfer, M.D., chief of the NIMH Somatic Treatments Program, which funded the study, said that in demonstrating how different patients respond best to different approaches, it helps to move the field toward the goal of more personalized treatment.

READ THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE HERE

Journal Reference: Helen Blair Simpson. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy vs Risperidonefor Augmenting Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors in Obsessive-Compulsive DisorderA Randomized Clinical TrialSerotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Augmentation.JAMA Psychiatry, 2013; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1932

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September 14, 2013 Posted by | anxiety, brain, Cognition, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, research | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Procrastinate Much? Focus On Starting Not Finishing

procrastinationSOURCE CREDIT: Author DONALD LATUMAHINA Lifeoptimizer.org
How to Achieve Goals Through Persistent Starting

Have you ever feel overwhelmed while trying to achieve a goal? I have, and I guess you have too. That’s why it’s important that you have a good strategy. Otherwise you might not achieve your goals, or will only achieve them through unnecessary stress and frustration.

One good strategy I found is persistent starting in The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. Here is what the book says about it:

“…essentially, all large tasks are completed in a series of starts… Keep on starting, and finishing will take care of itself.”

In essence, persistent starting means that you shouldn’t fill your mind with how big a project is. That will only make you feel overwhelmed. Instead, just focus on starting on it every day. By doing that, you will eventually finish the project and achieve your goal.

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Why Persistent Starting Is Powerful

There are three reasons why persistent starting is powerful:

1. It helps you reduce stress. Instead of filling your mind with how big a project is, you fill it with the simple task that you need to do today. That makes the burden much lighter.

2. It helps you overcome procrastination. One big reason why we procrastinate is that we feel overwhelmed by what we face. As a result, we hesitate to take action. This principle makes the task feel manageable.

3. It allows you to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. By just continually starting, you will eventually achieve a big goal. The whole journey might seem daunting, but by going through it one step at a time, you will eventually reach your destination.

A simple example in my life is when I tried to finish reading the Bible. It seemed like a huge task. If I focused on how hard it would be, it’s unlikely that I would ever finish it. But I focused instead on reading four chapters a day without thinking about how far I still had to go. With this attitude, I eventually finished reading it within a year.

How to Apply Persistent Starting

Here are four steps to apply persistent starting:

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Click Image to Read Reviews and More

1. Know your destination.

First of all, you need to know where you are going. If you don’t, you will only wander aimlessly. So set a clear goal. What is it that you are trying to achieve? How will success look?

2. Plan the route.

Now that you know your destination, you need to plan how to get there. A good way to do that is to set some milestones. These milestones serve two purposes:

They help you stay on track. You will know if you deviate from the right path.
They give you small victories along the way. Having a sense of accomplishment is important to stay motivated. By having milestones, you can get it along the way, not just at the end.
3. Keep doing the next simple task.

After planning the route, you should figure out the next simple task to do. What can you do today that will move you toward your destination? After you find it, then allocate time to do it.

4. Adjust your course as necessary.

You need to be careful not to go off course. So regularly check where you are (for example, by comparing your position with your next milestone) and adjust your course as necessary.

***

Persistent starting is a simple strategy, but it can help you achieve your goals with minimum stress and frustration. It works for me, and I hope it will work for you too.

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September 13, 2013 Posted by | anxiety, Books, brain, Cognition, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, research, Resilience, stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just Moody Or More? Are Your Child’s Moods Normal?

imagesSource Credit:
Are your child’s moods normal? Lisa Meyers McClintick, USA TODAY Guide to Kids’ Health, USATODAY 8 Sept. 2013

Any parent knows: An evening can go to heck in a matter of minutes.

Our 9-year-old daughter pipes up suddenly that she needs a pink dress to play Sleeping Beauty in class the next morning. It has to be pink. It has to be pretty. And she needs it now!

Any sort of reasoning—like the suggestion to wear a wedding-worthy yellow dress—won’t work. Frustrations explode into shouting, timeouts and all-too-familiar rants of “this family sucks,” followed by heartbreaking rounds of “I hate myself!”

The next morning, when nerves calm, the yellow dress is perfectly fine and our daughter cheerfully chatters about Belle’s ball gown in Beauty and the Beast.

The difference? The anxiety attack is over.

Sneaky and insidious, anxiety seizes our daughter like a riptide pulling her out to sea. Her negative thoughts build like a tsunami, and it’s useless to swim against them with problem-solving logic.

Like a real riptide, the only escape seems to be diagonally. A surprise dose of humor—tough to summon in the midst of a blowup—can spring her free. As one therapist explained, “You can’t process anger and humor at the same time.”

It’s taken years of keen observation and research, plus the support of educators and psychologists to help our kids, ages 9 to 13, cope with mental health issues that also include Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and depression.

Recognizing that something isn’t right and pursuing help isn’t an easy journey. But it’s necessary. In the same way you’d pursue cures and solutions to manage chronic physical conditions like cancer and diabetes for your child, you have to advocate for your child’s emotional well-being. It requires being proactive, persistent and patient.

“If you can intervene early and get proper treatment, the prognosis is so much better,” says Teri Brister, who directs the basic education program of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

KNOW THE SIGNS

“One of the most difficult-to-recognize issues is anxiety,” says John Duby, director of Akron Children’s Hospitals Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. “(Children) won’t say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m worried.’ You have to be tuned in.”

All-consuming worries—about parents’ safety, bullies or natural disasters, for instance—can look like a lack of focus at first. Some kids ask frequent questions about “what’s next” for meals or activities. Changes to the daily routine (a substitute teacher or a visit to a new doctor) can trigger headaches, stomachaches or a sleepless night.

At its most extreme, anxiety induces panic attacks. Kids break into sweats, have trouble breathing and feel their heart racing.

Depression may cause similar symptoms to anxiety with headaches, stomachaches, not being able to sleep or sleeping more than usual. “They may withdraw socially,” says Duby. Kids may head to their room after school and not emerge until morning. Some kids are constantly irritable and angry.

“We often think depression doesn’t happen in children, but it does,” he says.

GET HELP

Step 1: Trust your instincts

If you’re worried about your child’s mood, trust your instincts as a parent, recommends Brister.

The red flags of mental health disorders tend to pop up during school years when children have to navigate academic expectations, make friends and increase responsibilities at home.

“You have to look for (behavior) patterns,” says Brister. These can include impulsive acts, hyperactivity, outbursts, an inability to follow directions or recurring ailments that may impair how the child performs in class, extracurricular activities or simply sitting through dinner with the family.

Most concerned parents start with a visit to the pediatrician. (PETER’S EDIT For Australian parents your family GP is a good place to start) The family physician can help you analyze symptoms and understand whether there might be an underlying condition such as food allergies or a chronic lack of sleep.

Step 2: Seek professional help

(PETER’S EDIT: In Australia a referral from a GP to a psychologist via a mental health care plan or ATAPS will ensure an informed, appropriate and timely assessment.  If the issue is developmental, a referral to a paediatrician may be preferred or if your GP has a serious concern a referral to a child psychiatrist may be made. Wait times for each option should be relatively short in the private sector.) 

When our son was 5, we sought testing for ADHD with a referral from our pediatrician. Unfortunately, we couldn’t even get on a waiting list for a psychology appointment. We were told the list had backed up to a two-year wait, so it was eliminated. We had to call weekly and hope for an opening.

When our daughter needed help as her anxiety escalated, it took a school district triage nurse to get us an appointment with a psychiatric nurse.

This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario for parents. You need to use all the leverage you have to access experts in the school system or mental health clinics to help with your situation. Stay persistent and be pleasant rather than pushy.

And when you do get an appointment, make the most of it by consistently tracking the concerns you have about your child’s behavior and putting them in writing for the physician to read. Have a list of questions ready, and always ask about additional resources you can tap into, from support groups to books.

Mental health practitioners will also be gathering resources and information about your child from report cards, checklists and questionnaires. These can help pinpoint whether a child has anxiety, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, is on the autism spectrum or may have a combination of these. “It allows us to have a more objective view,” says Duby.

Step 3: Find your normal

Once there is a diagnosis, families can decide how to move forward. That might mean trying medications, working with a psychologist or setting up an Individualized Education Program (IEP) at school.

Additional services that may help include occupational therapy, which can identify specific movements, such as swinging, spinning or brushing outer limbs with a soft brush that may help your child’s brain process and integrate sensory information.

These tools and approaches can help families be proactive about preventing and managing mental meltdowns. It’s also essential to help children feel a sense of belonging at school and in community groups. Families need to build up their children’s strengths so they have the self-esteem and confidence to move forward, says Duby.

And parents should stay on top of the situation, watching for changes in behavior and mood, especially as children get older, says Brister.

Hormones may help or worsen conditions, which makes it important to have a diagnosis and support network before the teen years hit.

“I can’t emphasize enough how essential it is to recognize symptoms early and treat them,” she says.

Click Image to read reviews and for more info about this terrific workbook

Click Image to read reviews and for more info about this terrific workbook

SIGNS OF DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Signs in children may differ from the symptoms we commonly associate with adults who have the disorders. Depression in kids may look like irritability, anger and self-criticism, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It could be as subtle as her making less eye contact with you than in the past.

School performance is another important indicator. Grades can drop off dramatically; students may also visit the school nurse more frequently with vague complaints of illness.

Children who suffer from an anxiety disorder may experience fear, nervousness and shyness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They may worry excessively about things like grades and relationships with family and friends. They may strive for perfection and seek constant approval.

HOW TO CALM IT DOWN

Whether a child has mental health struggles or not, emotions inevitably boil over—especially as preteen dramas escalate. Here are ways to help de-escalate the situation and restore calm to your family life.

• Keep your body language non-threatening and stay as even-keeled as possible. Don’t get in the child’s face or use a raised voice.

• Teach kids how to breathe slowly through the nose, then exhale gently through the mouth as if cooling a hot bowl of soup.

• Create an “away space,” a place to cool down and take a break. Consider a quiet nook in a bedroom, a spot on the stairs for kids who don’t like separation or a backyard corner for those who find comfort in nature.

• Let kids know they can’t hit others, but it’s OK to punch a pillow or punching bag or to squeeze putty or a squishy toy.

• Figure out what’s physically comforting—feeling the softness of a blanket or stuffed animal, nuzzling the fur of a family pet or piling under heavy blankets.

• Listen to favorite tunes on a music player.

• Provide a journal for writing out frustrations or doodling when the words won’t come.

• When emotions simmer down, sit side by side to talk through how the situation could have been handled differently and work on solutions together.

ONLINE RESOURCES

(PETER’S EDIT:  AUSTRALIA:

HeadSpace: headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation Ltd is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under the Youth Mental Health Initiative Program. A great resource for parents and teens.

BeyondBlue : Resources for young people section )

OTHER:

HealthyChildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics has a section dedicated to “Emotional Problems.” Parents can tap into great information on how to help their child. Audio segments recorded by experts in the field can be used as a launching point for family discussions.

TheBalancedMindFoundation.org, founded by the mother of a daughter with bipolar disorder, provides help for families. Online, private support groups offer 24/7-support and online forums are a way for parents to connect.

WorryWiseKids.org, a service of the Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety, has a wealth of information about the different types of anxiety disorders children can have, how to understand them and how to seek treatment for them.

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September 11, 2013 Posted by | Adolescence, anxiety, Child Behavior, Children, depression, diagnosis, Education, happiness, mood, Parenting, research, Resilience, Resources, self harm, Suicide, Teens, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Social Anxiety: Half A Dozen Research Backed Hints To Fight The Fear

Social-Anxiety-3-224x300Source Credit:

Tartakovsky, M. (2013). 6 Ways to Overcome Social AnxietyPsych Central. Retrieved on September 9, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/6-ways-to-overcome-social-anxiety/00017631

“For some people social anxiety is pretty pervasive,” said Justin Weeks, Ph.D, an assistant professor of psychology and director of the Center for Evaluation and Treatment of Anxiety at Ohio University. For others, the anxiety arises in specific social situations, he said.

The most common example is anxiety over public speaking. Making small talk, eating in front of others and using public restrooms also can trigger worry and unease for some.

Some people engage in what Weeks called “covert avoidance.” For example, they might go to parties but instead of mingling, they hang back in the kitchen, he said.

Social anxiety is defined as anxiety anticipating a social situation or anxiety during or after that situation, Weeks said. “At the heart of social anxiety is the fear of evaluation.” And it’s not just negative evaluation that people worry about; it’s positive evaluation, too.

Weeks’s research suggests that people perceive negative consequences from a social situation whether they do poorly or well. (Here’s one study.) For instance, people who do well at work might worry about the social repercussions of outshining their coworkers, he said.

In other words, people with social anxiety simply don’t want to stand out. “They want to be as inconspicuous as possible.”

Anxiety about social situations lies on a spectrum. “The consensus among the experts is that shyness and social anxiety disorder are all part of one continuum,” Weeks said. “It’s a question of severity.”

How much does social anxiety interfere with your life?

For instance, you might wish that you were more comfortable when interacting with people, Weeks said. But “you don’t feel like it’s holding you back,” in terms of your personal or professional goals.

“Social anxiety is more severe.” A person might avoid going to college because schools require passing a public speaking course and interacting with new people. They might want a romantic relationship but worry so much about rejection that they avoid potential partners.

Below, Weeks shared his suggestions for overcoming social anxiety.

1. Try a self-help manual.

Self-help manuals are designed to supplement therapy, but they’re also good tools for working on your own, Weeks said. He suggested the Managing Social Anxiety workbook. (PETER’S NOTE: For Teens I highly recommend The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook for Teens: CBT and ACT Skills to Help You Build Social Confidence )

2. Work with a therapist.

If social anxiety is stopping you from doing things you want or need to do, or you haven’t had much success with self-help, seek professional help. Find a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders. You can start your search here.

The Workbook Recommended by Dr Justin Weeks

The Workbook Recommended by Dr Justin Weeks. Click Image To Read Reviews and View Content

3. Practice deep breathing every day.

It’s helpful to engage in deep breathing before an anxiety-provoking social situation, Weeks said. But practice this technique every day. This way it becomes second nature, and you don’t hyperfocus on deep breathing and miss an entire conversation, he said. Here’s more on deep breathing.

4. Create an exposure hierarchy.

An exposure hierarchy is a list – akin to a ladder – where you write down situations that cause you anxiety, in order of severity. Then you perform the easiest behavior, and keep moving up the list.

To create your own hierarchy, list 10 anxiety-provoking situations, and rate them on a 100-point scale (zero being no anxiety; 100 being severe anxiety). Your list might start with asking a stranger for directions and end with joining Toastmasters.

This website features a link to various worksheets on coping with social anxiety, and includes “the fear and avoidance hierarchy.” (Look for “managing social anxiety: workbook.”)

5. Create objective goals.

People tend to disqualify the positive when they feel anxious, Weeks said. They might do well, even great, but because of their anxious feelings, they see their performance as abysmal. That’s why therapists encourage clients to create objective behavioral goals, he said.

These are behaviors that anyone in the room would be able to observe. It doesn’t matter how you feel or whether you’re blushing or sweating (which you can’t control anyway) in a social situation.

For instance, if you’re working in a group setting, the objective behavior would be to make three comments, Weeks said.

This also gives you a good barometer for judging your progress. Again, you’re not focusing on whether you felt nervous. Rather, you’re focusing on whether you performed the actual behavior.

My Recommended Workbook for Teens

My Recommended Workbook for Teens. Click Image To Read Reviews and View Content

Also, avoid focusing on others’ reactions. It doesn’t matter how your colleagues received your idea in the meeting. What matters is that you actually spoke up. It doesn’t matter whether a girl or guy said yes to your dinner invite. What matters is that you actually asked. It doesn’t matter how your child’s teacher reacted when you declined to volunteer for yet another school trip. What matters is that you were assertive and respected your own needs.

As Weeks said, “You did what you wanted to in a situation. We can’t control what another person is going to do.”

6. Keep a rational outlook.

Dispute both bleak thoughts that undermine your performance and fuel your anxiety, and equally unrealistic thoughts that are irrationally positive, Weeks said.

For instance, if you’re giving a speech, you might initially think, “I’m going to bomb.” But if you’ve given speeches before and done well, then this isn’t a rational or realistic perspective. You might say instead, “I’ve given speeches before. I’m prepared, and I’ll give it my best shot.”

If you’re asking someone out, it’s not rational to think, “They’re definitely going to say yes.” But it is rational to consider, “They might,” according to Weeks.

If social anxiety is sabotaging your goals and stopping you from living the life you want, seek help and try the above strategies. Social anxiety is highly treatable, Weeks said. You can get better, and grow in the process.

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September 11, 2013 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Adolescence, anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Education, Health Psychology, research, therapy | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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