Self-esteem

National Suicide Prevention Day...10 September 2019

Today we are focusing on the worrying rates of suicides in the UK - and worldwide. In the UK 75% of suicides are by men with the age group 40 - 49 at the highest risk. Alarmingly the under 25 age group numbers of suicides has increased by 23.7% in the last year and overall suicides are up by 11.8%. Looking at statistics globally, the World Health Organisation figures show one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.

6507 suicides were recorded in the UK in 2018 - more than road accidents and wars and we fear this number is probably higher due to the subjectivity in the law around the recording of the cause of death.

It’s extremely worrying and becoming far too prevalent.

Last week, during a delivery of a Mental Health First Aid course, I was speaking to a participant who shared that 3 friends had died by suicide in the last year. All under the age of 25.

It’s real and happening and we have to do something about it.

So what can you do? How can you help with ‘prevention of suicide’?

The most important things you can do are:

Notice other people. Don’t let things slide by. If you notice changes in behaviour or mood or appearances - ask that person how they are feeling. And ask with care, interest and purpose.

Connect with others. People who are considering suicide often feel isolated, alone and desperate. They feel overwhelmed with their thoughts, feelings, troubles and feel that they have ‘no way out’. By connecting with them (which simply means being present and focusing on them) they will not be alone and this may make a huge difference.

Listen to them. Don’t try and fix their problems, or tell them about how you’ve had similar worries, Just listen to them. Be there for them and show genuine care and support.

Encourage them to get support and professional help. There are so many organisations that offer fantastic services and support - a few are listed below:

Samaritans: for everyone  Call 116 123  Email jo@samaritans.org www.samaritians.org

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): for men Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight daily

Papyrus: Prevention of Young Suicide) under 35 Call 0800 068 41 41 – Mon to Fri 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm  Text 07786 209697 Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Childline:  for children and young people under 19 Call 0800 1111  www.childline.org.uk

The Silver Line:  for older people Call 0800 4 70 80 90

CALM: (Campaign Against Living Miserably)  0800 58 58 58 www.thecalmzone.net 

The Mix:  Under 25’s  freephone 0808 808 4994 (1 – 11pm) www.themix.org.uk

YoungMinds: Crisis Messenger free, 24/7 mental health crisis support text YM to 85258

And take care of yourself too!

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The 'controversy' of Cannabis?

I came across a link on facebook that had created a lot of controversy (going by the conflicting comments posted). It headlined ‘Cannabis gives teenagers ‘brain damage’ and loss of self-control, study finds’.

“...the adolescent brain may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of substance use, particularly cannabis” Dr Marilyn Cyr

Dr Cyr is the lead researcher from Columbia University in the US. She showed that there was a direct link between adult substance use and problems with drugs and alcohol in adolescence.

This gave me pause for thought as in our mental health work we know that there is a link between drugs (particularly depressants), dependency and mental health concerns. We also know that the teenage brain is a ‘work in progress’ and really susceptible to influences (physical and cognitive). Teenage neural pathways are a hive of activity and development with the frontal cortex only fully developing by the age of 25. This means that teenagers are particularly vulnerable to substance use and by using it ‘recreationally’ in this developmental stage, they may in fact be paving the way for problems later on in life. They are, in effect, ‘wiring’ their brains during development towards this path.

Cannabis is the most widely used recreational drug among teenagers world-wide with vaping growing at an alarming rate. This research is a big step towards directing early interventions that will help manage addictive behaviours.

So what are ‘early interventions’ and what are their goals?

  • To reduce potential harms and risky behaviours

  • To prevent the behaviour developing into a disorder

  • To provide information about substance use risks

  • To provide information about normal and safe levels of use

  • To provide information on how to quit or cut down on the use

  • To be a bridge between prevention and actually receiving treatment

  • Could be informal counselling and help with decision making

So we have to ask, could we reduce the numbers of drug and alcohol dependent adults (and by default the presenting mental health issues) if we reduce the use of these substances among teenagers?

Whose responsibility is this? Parents? Schools? Government? NHS?

In our line of work we always come back to the premise that ‘knowledge and awareness is key’. The more information you have about behaviours, choices, cognitive development and life - the better equipped you’ll be to cope with situations and challenges. This is what we work through in our workshops and deliveries to organisations, employees and parents.

For those who argue that Cannabis has value - are you referring to medicinal cannabis use or recreational use? I expect it’s a continuing debate!

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Summer and depression

The summer is upon us and it can be lovely, but not for everyone.
Summer is a time where depression and other mental health problems are common. Despite the weather being nicer and seeing people outdoors, this time of the year is tough for many. Being on your own and feeling lonely is even more obvious when seeing all the 'happy' people out and about. Posts on social media from 'amazing' holidays and times with friends and family are on show more than ever. Body image can also be a big issue. The thought of showing your body in summer clothes might be horrifying. The ‘what if someone comments and doesn’t like me’ feelings set in.

Feeling low affects everything around us. Something we normally cope with becomes a huge issue. So what can we do to help ourselves?

  • We are all entitled to wear what we like and do what we are comfortable with. Say no and stand tall. It’s OK.

  • We have choices about how to structure our days so make sure it is what suits you, not everyone else. If we know our triggers, try to avoid them.

  • If summer holidays aren’t your thing, don’t go. Choose another time of the year. Some work mates will appreciate it!

  • Most people are too busy thinking about themselves and their lives to notice someone elses' discomfort or how they look. It is more probable that we are caught in a negative thinking pattern which seems real but might not be reality.

  • If these feelings have a big impact on life and are regular, ask for help. Therapy is there to assist and improve our lives. Don’t hesitate, it does work for a lot of people.

Be aware of others and their feelings and above all, be inclusive! Loneliness is a tough situation. If we can make a difference to someone, whether at work for lunch or after work drinks, inviting a neighbour, make that call you meant to do or send a text shows that you are thinking of them. The simplest things can make someone feel like they too are important. Kindness is one of them.

And, remember the sunscreen!!

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How does social media affect our wellbeing?

I’ve been thinking about the impact social media has on our wellbeing. It is up and down for a lot of people. A kind of love or hate relationship.

Depending on how you are feeling that time you look on FB or Instagram, what you are reading and seeing can set you up for the day. The tendencies seem to be that the majority of posts are about how great life is, which can be really uplifting and inspiring if you are in that mindset.

However, if you are a bit low and things aren’t going as well as you’d like in your own life, reading about others ‘perfect’ lives can be depressing and sometimes hurtful. Seeing photos from an event or gathering with lots of your friends and you were not included can be one of those hurtful moments.

The lives of our online friends can seem so different and more exciting and successful than ours. But are they really? What goes on behind those facades?

There has been a lot in the news about suicides amongst not only youngsters but also adults. Has this digital world got anything to do with this increase in deaths?

So how do we live with this phenomena? How can we handle our social media without allowing it to get us down?

I think self-esteem plays a big part. If our self-esteem is high, we can handle situations and rationalise feelings much better. We are able to push those thoughts aside and see that what is presented is not always what it seems. Also, even if it is amazing, we can be happy for those involved and not jealous.

Envy is fine, we all would like some things we don’t have but that is OK, this is life. Kids today need to learn from an early age that life is not always fair, it can’t be the same for everyone. Study, work and do your best to create the life you want to live.

So, here are a few tips on increasing our self-esteem:

  • Write a gratitude diary every night. I know it sounds funny but it is all part of feeding our brains with positivity.

  • Challenge any negative thoughts that pop in to your head. “Is this really true?”

  • Use mantras. “I can do this” , “I am a good person”, “ I am worthy”, yet again, feeding our brains with positive words has a great impact.

  • Exercise! Release those endorphins!

  • Get out, go into nature and be present! The feeling of being out and breathing fresh air is unbeatable.

  • Sleep. Give yourself and your body a chance to recover and recharge.

Enjoy your life, never mind what others do!!

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It's all in the numbers...Men's Health Numbers!


It’s ‘Men’s Health Week’ this week (10 - 16 June) and the focus is on ‘numbers’!

The theme this year focuses on the fact that men (as a generalisation) seem to like (the campaign uses the word ‘obsessed’) numbers!

So they want to raise awareness of some critical numbers.

  • 7 ‘must know’ numbers for all men

  • 5 ‘statistics’ that we all need to be aware of

Key numbers for men:

  • 37 If your waist size is 37 “ or more, you’re at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes & cancer

  • 150 Try and do 150 mins of some physical activity each week

  • 5 That’s your ‘five a day’ fruit and veg goal

  • 14 No more than 14 units of alcohol a week spread over several days

  • 10 Years off your life if you smoke (average)

  • 120/80 normal blood pressure

  • 75 % (3 out of 4) suicides are by men

For those of us wanting to help (Family Focus UK included!)…think about the facts that:

  • 1 man in 5 dies before the age of 65

  • 2 men in 5 die before the age of 75

  • Unskilled working men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives than those in senior management

For men wanting some more information, there’s something called man MOT to challenge you and check your own health: https://www.menshealthforum.org.uk/man-mot-faqs

So, if you are a man or have a man in your life (old or young) please take a look at these numbers and see where you (they) fit in. Do you need to take stock? What can you do to make some changes in your life?

We’re here to help in any way, so let us know if you’d like some more information on any of this.

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Women and our hormones

I’ve been thinking lately about the impact of hormones in our lives. Girls and women have to deal with this from an early age and it impacts very differently from person to person. It’s amazing to think 50% of the population will suffer at some stage to something out of their control.

I do know that men also have hormonal changes but I am pretty sure, us women have the tougher deal…

One thing is for certain though, all women experience something in our lifetime, whether it’s puberty, childbearing years or menopause. Things like period pain, masses of bleeding, PMS, exhaustion, headaches, memory blips, mood swings, acne, weight gain, weight loss (yes, that happens too…), low libido, high libido, skin changes, hair thinning, depression etc. The list is very long!!

These issues can have a massive impact on a woman’s life and everyone around her, yet it’s not something we talk about often enough. A lot of men, in particular those inexperienced with women, have no idea of the battles that go on. Even some men who have female partners are in the dark why their women turn into ‘moody cows’ at times.

I think it’s up to us women to educate the men around us and explain what to expect at times and why it happens. Sometimes we have choices and can control what happens but a lot of the time, we can’t.

The more we talk about it from an early age, to both our sons and daughters, the easier it will be for everyone. Our kids also get to see sides of us we wish they didn’t have to but yet again, talk and explain.

As always, understanding and knowledge is power and we have to help ourselves and our loved ones by taking charge of this. We can’t wait or expect others, like the school or friends, to explain to our men and children.

Also, in a work environment, this is very common. We have to talk to our co workers when needed. They can’t read our minds and understand what is going on. Having said that, please be supportive of the female staff during certain times in their lives. It’s hard enough having to cope with yourself, let alone everyone else around you.

I used to get dreadful hot flushes at any time of the day. In my work, I do 1-2-1 sessions and sometimes a flush would hit me. I’d go red and start to perspire. Not a nice look or feeling. When that happened, I had to explain that it was not about them and their story, but me and my menopause… At least they knew and I felt better for explaining.

Awareness is key. Educate, train and encourage communication. It is needed all around us so get talking!

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Phones and sleep

So, it’s been in the news lately about the connection between mobile phones and sleep deprivation.

In particular, it’s been concerning children and ensuring they get enough sleep which is a national problem, and was highlighted on the BBC news this morning.

We all need our sleep to function properly and children need it even more in order to allow their brains to develop the way it needs to.

There is lots of data and research as far as sleep goes and it’s being done for a reason; sleep deprivation is affecting people everywhere. It’s not just about individuals and their personal needs, it’s very much about us as a society.

Sleep deprivation affects our ability to function properly including concentrating whilst driving and working. Productivity is affected for both adults and children.

Here are the latest recommendations from https://www.sleepfoundation.org

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)

  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)

  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)

  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)

  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)

  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)

  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

There are a few variables as we do have different needs dependent on fitness levels, weight, health issues etc.

Overall though, we all need to sleep undisturbed to function and allow our brain to rest. This includes leaving phones turned off and preferably away from the bedroom. A child should never have a phone or any electronics in the bedroom as it makes it too easy to be reachable. My daughter was one of them a few years ago, she kept on getting messages from needy friends in the middle of the night and it disturbed her sleep badly. I had to step in and remove it and told her to tell her friends she has the worst mum in the world!

The need to be available 24/7 is creating a society that is unhealthy and stressful. What choices do we have? At what stage do we realise what this is doing to our health?

As parents, we are the adults and decision makers for our children when it comes to knowing what’s best for them. Dare to be the ‘worst parents in the world’ because that comes with being the loving, caring parents we need to be. Boundaries are necessary for a child to learn right from wrong and they will thank you later on!

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Is the world different now?

Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day, on which we remembered the millions of people murdered by the Nazis, and in the genocides since in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Most of us know about this and spare a thought every now and then. What a horrendous thing to happen…

How different is the world today? Could this happen again in Europe??

I do wonder at times and it makes me sad to think how narrow minded and easily persuaded us humans are. Some more than others but generally most of us can get convinced of something that feels wrong to start with.

How can this be avoided? What do we need to stay strong in our beliefs and remain decent, caring human beings?

One thing I know is that parents have a massive influence on their children whether they like it or not. The way we bring our children up, show and teach them our values that influences them immensely.

By being role models, showing rather than saying, we teach our kids right from wrong.

This does not stop just because they become teenagers and don’t want to listen. It’s our job and responsibility to continue to be present and pay attention to what are children are doing, who they hang out with and who they ‘meet’ online.

  • Be a parent, not a friend.

  • Set boundaries and enforce them.

  • Be empathic to their problems.

  • Support the kids and listen without judging.

  • Again, be a ROLE MODEL.

We can if we try, and they are worth it!

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What colour do you feel?

I was sitting this weekend with my son as he put together a page in his photography portfolio on colour and we had a very interesting discussion about the different colours and how they represent people, moods, attitudes and feelings. It reminded me of when I had a ‘mood ring’ in my younger days and how I’d watch it change colour from day to day.

So what is colour and how does it work?

There are four psychological primary colours - red, blue, yellow and green. Each of them relate to the body, the mind and emotion and how these 3 elements are (or are not) balanced. The trick is to understand how these colours can how power over you and your emotions and how you can use them to your advantage.

The colour RED represents physicality.  Strength, energy, that ‘fight or flight’ reaction or in a negative way can suggest stress or even aggression.  Red often grabs our attention first which is why it is used with ‘stop’ traffic lights.  Red makes your pulse race faster (think love symbolised as a red heart).

BLUE refects intelligence, communication, trust and calm.  It makes us think of blue skies and releasing the mind.  It works with us on a mental (rather than a physical) level and is said to help with concentration.  However, too much blue can feel distant and even unemotional.

YELLOW is the colour of emotion and personality.  It demonstrates friendliness and creative impulses and optimism.  On a negative note it can be linked with emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression.  Using the right colour yellow will lift spirits and self-esteem and give the wearer/viewer confidence and a feeling of optimism.  Too much or the wrong tone can make you feel panic, fear and anxiety.

Finally, GREEN is about balance.  Green promotes nature, rest, peace and awareness and is often used to promote a sense of calm.  Too much green can suggest boredom and stagnation and being bland.

From these 4 primary colours comes a surge of ‘mixed’ hues that allow for a range of emotions, feelings and responses.  They are study in themselves.

Usually when we select colours to wear, paint a room, highlight a text, pick out an object it is done on a sub-conscious level, but there is always more behind the choice.  We are naturally drawn to certain colours and this can change depending on the way we are feeling, what we are trying to accomplish and the message we are wanting to relay.

So for today.  Have a look at the colour chart here and see which colour you naturally respond to.  What is your physical (body reaction), intellectual (what do you think), emotional (what do you feel) and psychological (how do you want to act) response to the colours.  Ask yourself why?

See how often this changes and when it changes.  Ask yourself why?

Colour can be a tool that you can use to build your self-esteem, your confidence.  It can help to portray a message to others subliminally or be part of a campaign with an objective to get a certain feeling or message across.

there are some different schools of thought eg DISC personality profiling that uses colour references as well as lots of additional reading available online about colour psychology and colour mood charts: https://www.verywellmind.com/color-psychology-2795824

Today I am wearing black and blue for a meeting, so I guess that makes me wanting to exude both power and trust!

How about you?

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The invisible people

There are invisible people all around us. We might see them as we pass but we don’t SEE them.

At school, in the workplace, at the cafe, in a family… They are everywhere!

What makes someone invisible? Is it just in their own heads or is it as real for them as it was for Harry Potter whilst wearing the invisibility cloak?

I think the latter. In my work as a counsellor and coach, I come across people who feel on the outside of society and not seen. They are not noticed, not paid attention to and just ignored. What a horrible feeling that must be!

There is one client in particular that I have never forgotten. He was a man in his mid-20s and living in a bedsit. He said he had never been seen by his family and would just spend the time at home in his room, gaming and smoking weed. No interaction, no ‘How are you?’ or ‘Would you like dinner?’ Nothing. He said that no one cared and he might as well be invisible.

As a parent, that made me so sad for this lost boy. He needed love and attention in his life. That goes a long way to enable growing up.

There are of course lots of more people who feel like this and never seek help. The elderly in our country is a big group where isolation and loneliness is a big problem.

Why is this? What can we do to help?

This is where being a human and noticing others around us can help. Is there a child that rarely gets to play or get spoken to in your child’s class? Can your child engage with him or her?

Are there people in the office who rarely talk and engage with the rest? Why is that? Have you tried to connect?

In the adult world, we easily and often make assumptions and pass judgement on others without actually knowing them. Can this be the case with some of your work colleagues?

Inclusion is vital in the workplace and all around us.

Become aware of the people around us and be inclusive. Maybe there is a new friend nearby!

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Perfectionism and Mental Health

Most of us will relate to the word ‘perfectionist’ and will probably have images of someone who can’t leave things undone; who sets extremely high standards for themselves and others; often appears stressed and under pressure and seems to be intolerant of those who don’t behave or perform to their high standards.

Perfectionism is one of those character traits that can be a real positive (if channeled correctly) but can also be a big contributor to stress and burnout.

So what are the characteristics of perfectionism? 

Fear of failure:  You see failure as a reflection on your abilities or your value.

All or nothing thinking: You are very black or white – right or wrong.  You have a tendency to extremes.

Defensiveness. You hate criticism and often get very defensive if you think someone is pointing out your weaknesses or (perceived) failures.

Finding faults with yourself and other:. You are often on the lookout for imperfections in yourself and others. You tend to be largely overcritical of any mistakes and feel it’s important to correct people when they make a mistake.

Inflexibility:  You have a very high standard for both yourself and other people that is a rigid line that needs to be met.  You often say words like ‘must’ ‘should’ have to’ when you speak.

Excessive need for control. You like to control other’s behaviour and thoughts as you see it as helping them from making mistakes (whether they’ve asked for help or not).

Difficulty delegating:  You will often say to yourself ‘if you want this done right – do it yourself’.  You have a tendency to micromanage others around you.

The biggest concern with perfectionism is the link between these ‘workaholic’ behaviours and the drain on your mental and physical energy.  The relentless drive to work to perfection leads to a very rigid thought process and an increase in your body’s (negative) stress response.  Perfectionists often experience anxiety over their performance as they feel unable to live up to (often) unrealistic standards.

Often, a perfectionist creates a cycle of behaviour where exacting standards (which cannot be met) leads to more effort in a strive to achieve and then perceived failure which starts the cycle again. This will affect your energy, your emotions and ultimately your relationships, home life, relaxation and your ability to work. The result is often burnout, depression or the inability to cope with your levels of stress. 

So, before your perfectionism traits start to manifest in excess stress or failed relationships.  Ask yourself some questions and do some reading about how to combat the negative effects of perfectionism and channel the positive traits.

Some websites that might be of interest:-

 https://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/Perfectionism.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/depression-management-techniques/201203/handling-perfectionism

https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/perfectionism-children/

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Adversity and karma?

I too have faced adversity quite a few times in life and I know that having support, being able to talk and being heard are fundamental to getting through difficult and challenging times. No matter have tough these have been, my husband and I have somehow gotten through them by facing it all together. We have learnt that being transparent and honest has paid off. Friends and family have supported us and for this we are immensely grateful. Look after your relationships, be there for others and have empathy. 'What goes around comes around' is something we live by.

Here is an interesting article, a bit of a read but a good one;

5 Steps to Adapt to, Embrace and Transform Significant Adversity

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

written by Jocelyn Duffy, Communication & Contribution Strategist - I Help World-Class Leaders Develop Their Ideas and Master Their Messages

As entrepreneurs or those who live with an entrepreneurial spirit, it is easy to sometimes feel somewhat invincible. We’re in the zone, on a role, thinking outside the box, seeing things from a powerful perspective...and then, from seemingly out of nowhere life shows us something new, something exponentially more challenging than our everyday feats hits.

Being abundantly happy, successful, fulfilled or honoring our life’s purpose obviously won’t grant us immunity from sudden or inexplicable turns. Sometimes adversity or great challenges brushes in as a gentle whisper or a light tap on the shoulder; other times it’s a more pronounced nudge or a giant, unexpected wallop over the head (metaphorically speaking, of course). The later can feel like we’ve been gobsmacked – our life’s course halted, blurred or fully redirected.

Gobsmack: Completely dumbfounded, shocked. From the Irish word "gob" meaning "mouth" (Urban Dictionary)

When we get “gobsmacked,” we are left feeling naïve and unprepared, in spite of all the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gathered along the journey of life. The initial shock can feel like life has forced you off the proverbial cliff, and in the words of the late Tom Petty, there you are “learning to fly, but you ain’t got wings.” Coming down really is the hardest thing.

How do you mentally, emotionally and spiritually process what has happened? How do you reset and get your feet back on the ground, moving forward with life? 

What if the greatest thing you could do was love the experiences that stop you in your tracks?

Loving our experiences doesn’t mean bypassing the need to feel anger, frustration and sadness; it means that we keep moving through those emotions to reach a place of transformation, where love, instead of fear, leads the way.

Not convinced? Here’s a story of life forcing a friend of mine off a literal cliff:

C.J. Wilkins found enjoyment in jumping off of cliffs. He is a paraglider...was a paraglider – an exhilarating and dangerous sport that requires great knowledge of the weather and air conditions. As a veteran paraglider, he knew when it was safe to jump and he also knew the risks.

On a sunny summer’s day, C.J. jumped off a mountain in western British Columbia and got caught in the convergence of two air masses that spun him around and slammed him into the side of a nearby cliff. After great struggle, first-response crews reached him, air-lifting him to hospital an hour away. He underwent three surgeries to reconstruct his spine. It was questioned whether he would ever walk again.

At the core of who he was, C.J. was a serial entrepreneur. He knew what it was to hold a vision at heart, defy the odds, reach beyond the status quo and take calculated risks. Amazingly, crashing into a mountain hadn’t deterred his entrepreneurial spirit. He used that spirit to push through months of intensive rehabilitation, sharing photos and videos on social media and gathering a squad of cheerleaders.

Pushing the bounds of what was possible, one step at a time, C.J. began walking again. He found strength from his unshakable spirit and from great supporters in hospital and in his life – those who walked by his side, as slow as required, to help him regain his strength. The experienced had humbled him, though by no means did he allow it to stop him.

Over the months that followed, his mind pushed him beyond the matter of a frail spine, bolted together with 13 of pieces of metal. Not only did he walk again, he began to hike and bike with vigor, breaking all notions of what his physical capacity should be. C.J. was authentic about the odds, the struggle and the need for sheer determination, using them all as fuel for his quest to return to living a full life.

Within a year, he was hiking up mountains, keeping pace with friends who were in impeccable shape. When a follow-up surgery freed him to use some of his own natural body function (and liberated him of 5 of the metal plates), he sought higher mountains and tested the limitlessness of not only his recovery and resilience, but also his ability to reach heights not previously known.

C.J. achieved what he did because he believed it was possible, for himself and for anyone. He knew that he had what it takes to fly, even without wings. Embracing his second chance at life, he found another way to leap off of mountains by adapting and adjusting his passion and vision. Instead of paragliding off the mountain peaks, he shifted to biking up them. He found a love and thrill for taking on the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. He biked through France. It was clear that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.

By biking all the way up the mountain and getting the high of swiftly spinning his wheels through the trails on the way down, he had found a new way to embrace the mountains...the same mountains that had crippled him.

He chose to not hate the mountains – he chose to love them.

These experiences that push us off the proverbial cliff or employ the unexpected wallop come in many forms:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Job Loss
  • Major illness
  • The end of a relationship or partnership
  • Financial hardship

When they hit, the feeling is one of being swept away from (or swiftly off) our comfort zone, like a giant gust of wind redirecting our path. After giving ourselves the necessary time to feel and heal from the adversity, we have the choice whether or not to see the awareness and opportunity that has been created by the painful shift.

Regardless of how hard our experiences are – those mountains that move us – we can choose to love them. Our experiences are the hand that feeds our soul by showing us the potential we hold when we are pushed to the proverbial edge. If we open ourselves us to being students and learning from life, these events can also become the ties that bind us – proving opportunity to learn and teach something of immeasurable value. They can help us grow stronger as a collective society that supports one another in navigating life’s journey with greater ease.

Love your experiences – they are your teachers.

These forced leaps of life, steering up into the depths of the unknown, allow us the opportunity to be introspective, to reassess our current path and gain clarity of what really matters, to us and to those we support.

Here are 5 steps you can take to adapt to, embrace and transform significant challenge or adversity:

3 Choices to Navigate Significant Challenge and Become Boundless

1. Get to Know Yourself – While adversity often forces us to be introspective, it is also crucial to have self-awareness prior to facing tumultuous times. When we know who we are – our beliefs, values, attributes, abilities and attitude – we have a rock to stand on, so to speak. The more you know about what you are able to do, the more you can do all that you can, even when seated amid great adversity. Secondarily, self-awareness is key because when something happens that leaves us feeling like everything has been shaken or swept away, having the knowledge that we haven’t lost who we are is extremely powerful. No matter what you lose, you can never lose yourself or your ability to be resilient. This awareness can become the center-point and fuel for regaining your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength. C.J. knew that he could achieve the impossible, and he did. Choose to defy (“I am,” “I can,” “I will.”) rather than justify (“I can’t because...”).

2. Compassion and Small Action – Think of how you’d treat a child who has had a big fall. You aren’t going to force them to immediately get up. Chance are, you’ll comfort them and see what they need. From there, you take gradual steps and do what you can to ease the pain and help them restore their smile and their ability to run freely. The same should apply for how you treat yourself in the wake of great adversity. Take small steps, be supportive of yourself and find others to support you. C.J. was only able to walk again because of those who helped hold him up during his most difficult weeks of rehabilitation.

3. Befriend Change – Love your metaphorical mountains, big and small. Love the valleys too. Change, good or bad, foreseen or unexpected, opens the door to development and growth. If you’ve never so much as changed the location of your toothbrush, the contents of your kitchen or office drawers or taken a new route to the office, then any unexpected change will leave you lost for direction. Make small changes a regular part of your life. They will exponentially increase your adaptability to significant or unexpected change.

4. Maximize Your Momentum – Here’s where most of us don’t give ourselves enough credit: It takes an enormous amount of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength to keep moving forward after great challenge or adversity. Simply reaching the point of reinstating our previous “status quo” can feel like a momentous feat. Have you considered how much momentum you’ve build when you’ve worked so hard to rebuild or re-establish your life? What if you could continue to use that momentum to take you to place that you didn’t even know you could go? C.J. used the momentum of defying the odds to walk again and set it in motion to making his way to the mountain peaks, not only on foot, but also on bike, all over the world! Take stock of your strength, value it and make it your fuel. Do more than overcome. When you open yourself up to the possibility of what you can create in your life, for yourself and for others, you see how boundless you can really be. Let your momentum take you to where you are capable of going. Don’t stop at what you know, because getting gobsmacked has provided you with the opportunity to take your life to new heights. Be willing to venture into the unknown. Make the choice to use your momentum to grow from, transcend and transform your experiences...and perhaps to give meaning to the experiences themselves by using them to help, teach or support others).

No one ever said the journey of life was going to be easy. Destruction can be a powerful prerequisite and fuel for reconstruction – for building something more deeply purposeful than we previously knew possible. This is not to negligently say that “everything happens for a reason,” but rather that within every circumstance, we have the opportunity to use our experiences as the foundation to create something meaningful – something that fills our heart and helps ease the way for others.

Love your mountains. Let them take you into the unknown, for there you might just discover your boundless potential.

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Conflict and courage

I've been working with a few different clients recently who are going through tough times at work. The common denominator is relationships with managers and work colleagues. They are finding it hard to fit in and to feel accepted by others and struggling because of it.

What can be done when this is going on? How can a person help themselves and what do we expect from management?

What we have discussed in our sessions is their own mindset and reactions in various situations. What have they become aware of? What choice do they have? 

A bully will keep on going when their victim reacts to them in a way that feeds their sense control. The feeling of being powerful is then reinforced and they will continue.

The subtle changes in our own reaction to a bully can be really effective. It's kind of like a tennis match where a ball is smashed only to be caught and not returned straight away. If we hold on to the ball and lobb it back in a nice, friendly way, the smashing becomes less fun.

By replying in a disarming way like "I'm sorry you feel that way" or " Goodness, I didn't mean to...." or similar, the person doesn't get ammunition to continue to be nasty. 

Acceptance of differences in the workplace is so important as we come from different countries, backgrounds and situations. We don't tend to know what is going on in someone else's life and why they are difficult to deal with at times. It can explain a behaviour even if it doesn't make it OK. 

As far as managing staff and the treatment of each other in the workplace, the company needs to provide training and make sure the managers are vigilant, understanding and empathic to staff that 'dare' to bring any issues to the table. It is hard to have to do this and no one does this lightly. To be heard and seen is vital.

When someone speaks up, others tend to follow or at least respond and say 'me too'. 

Be courageous, speak up and stand tall!

 

 

 

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Why EQ?

EQ - Emotional Intelligence plays a big part in our lives. We might not be aware of it but it affects most areas. The awareness to develop our EQ is on the rise and is an important step in the fight to combat failing mental health. The connection between the two has been proven by many researchers including Dan Goleman. Here is an explanation of what having high EQ means:

  1. Self-awareness: If a person has a healthy sense of self-awareness, he understands his own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how his actions affect others. A person who is self-aware is usually better able to handle and learn from constructive criticism than one who is not.
  2. Self-regulation: A person with a high EQ can maturely reveal her emotions and exercise restraint when needed. Instead of squelching her feelings, she expresses them with restraint and control.
  3. Motivation: Emotionally intelligent people are self-motivated. They're not motivated simply by money or a title. They are usually resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment and driven by an inner ambition.
  4. Empathy: A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to empathize allows a person to provide great service and respond genuinely to others’ concerns.
  5. People skills: People who are emotionally intelligent are able to build rapport and trust quickly with others on their teams. They avoid power struggles and backstabbing. They usually enjoy other people and have the respect of others around them.

By using these skills we can avoid going further down mentally and possibly prevent mental health struggles. Become aware, listen and learn about your mind and body.

As far as children goes, they learn what EQ is mainly from us parents. If we are aware, they will become as well. We will always be their role models whether we like it or not.

Here is a great article on how to teach our kids EQ from ahaparenting.com:

http://www.ahaparenting.com/parenting-tools/emotional-intelligence/foundation-for-EQ

Enjoy!!

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Your Role with Exam Pressure!

If you have teenagers writing GCSE’s or A levels at the moment chances are you are dealing with some different dynamics in the house.

There are a few things to remember as you navigate this time with your child. 

  1. Everyone learns in a different way.  If your child isn’t revising the same way you did at school, this doesn’t mean they aren’t revising!  If they are focused and showing discipline – don’t interfere with their preferred way of studying.  
  2. If they are battling and can’t seem to focus/revise without getting distracted, you may need to offer some help.  Perhaps help them draw up a revision timetable?  There are lots of online tools for this like:   https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/g/planner

Have they managed to access online help/resources?  Have you tried:-

https://senecalearning.com/  (full GCSE syllabus online revision help)

https://www.bbc.com/education/levels/z98jmp3  (stacks of quizzes to help with revision)

https://www.educake.co.uk/  (science revision)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=primrose+kitten  (Primrose Kitten on youtube has lots of help for revision)

https://evernote.com/  (fantastic online tool for making notes)

These exams are really challenging over a long, sustained period that will tax and strain even the most diligent of students.  So, as parents, perhaps this is the time to lay off the rules a bit and ease up on the demands and requirements in the house.

  • Let their bed stay unmade – or make it for them! 
  • Hang up their clothes for them or let that pile grow with no nagging from you
  • Bring them a cup of hot chocolate while they’re studying
  • Keep them hydrated with water and a few snacks
  • Make sure they take breaks and get some fresh air and stretch their necks
  • Above all – let them feel care for and supported by you
  • Let them focus on the big stuff (their exams) and you try and make the other parts of their lives a bit easier. 
  • Give them something to look forward to when their exams are finished (a holiday/treat/special outing/gift?)

You can go 'back to normal' when the exams are over!

Remember – you want to try and avoid undue stress.  Exam stress is created by fear (not knowing the work) and guilt (I haven’t done enough revision).  So if you can support your child to tick these 2 boxes – you will be doing a lot to help reduce their stress with their exams.

If you are worried about your child or their stress levels – get help.  Contact your GP or:-

http://www.studentminds.org.uk/examstress.html

https://www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/school-college-and-work/school-college/exam-stress/

Best of luck to all your children with their exams….

 

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Are you a helicopter parent?

There is a lot of writing about mollycoddling and helicopter parenting in the media. The impact of this way of parenting is not only on the families themselves but everyone else around them.

The schools are affected in a detrimental way as many children do not like the fact that they are just one in a group and not no 1. This causes them to act in a way to get attention and mostly in a bad way. Bad attention is better than no attention.

How can we help parents to understand that by overprotecting, paving the way and not saying NO to their children, they are creating insecure, low self esteemed, demanding little people who don't understand what acceptable behaviour is? 

Here is a great article by Amy Brown who is an associate professor of child public health at Swansea University. It's a well written article and sums up everything I want to say. Please read!

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/helicopter-or-lawnmower-modern-parenting-styles-can-get-in-the-way-of-raising-well-balanced-children-a7850476.html

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Lighthouses and children, what is that about?

The expression lighthouse as far as children and parenting goes, it's there to symbolise showing the way and to be a steady, safe part of a child's life.

When a child has that person in their life, they feel loved, safe and cared for on every level.

Most parents love and care for their children but for different reasons, are unable to be the support their child really needs. Is there someone else in their surroundings that can step in? An auntie, uncle, cousin, family friend or teacher?

This is what being a lighthouse is about; support, care and love unconditionally.

In parenting there is also the phrase 'Lighthouse parenting' which was coined by  Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg in his book "Raising Kids to Thrive." 

This explains what he means by this:

According to Dr. Ginsburg, a well-known physician of adolescent medicine, professor and author, parents should be lighthouses for their children, visible from the shoreline as a stable light or beacon.

They should make sure their children don't crash against the rocks, yet allow them to ride the waves even if they get a little choppy sometimes. Lighthouses are solid symbols, always there to guide you and help you get your bearings -- and that's exactly what lighthouse parents are to their children.

There are two main principles of lighthouse parenting:

  • Giving unconditional love: Loving your kids without conditions gives them the security they need to have enough confidence to get through the difficulties of life. It's important to note that unconditional love doesn't mean unconditional approval. You still need to set high standards for behaviour, which helps kids form strong character and morals. You love them but don't always love their behaviours -- it's important to differentiate between the two.
  • Letting children fail: Kids won't learn life lessons, whether good or bad, if they don't get a chance to experience them firsthand. Your kids need to fall or fail -- not always win or succeed. It's part of life and helps teach resilience. It's important to note that as their "lighthouse" you should protect them against challenges that are not age-appropriate or may cause serious harm.

As with everything, we have to find the way that works for us. This is one approach and there are many more.

Find what suits you and your family and love, love, love!

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Sexual harassment amongst teens. What do we do about it??

Not enough is the answer as far as I see it!

Most of us growing up in the 60s, 70, and 80s experienced this on a regular basis and just accepted is as part of life and the difference between men and women. I was attacked, groped and verbally assaulted but it was only after the attacks that I called the police. Not that anything was done about it but I did call... This is not good enough, we need to stand up for our children and their future. I know now that I didn't do this as well as I should have.  Luckily my daughters knew better and are teaching me. They are two strong, proud, young women today and out there bringing awareness to others including their parents. 

PLEASE READ!

Below is part of the article: 'Sexual harassment among teens is pervasive. Here are 6 ways parents can help change that.' By Alison Cashin and Richard Weissbourd.

As parents, we need to do better. We need have specific conversations with our teens about what misogyny and sexual harassment mean, why they are so harmful, and how to combat them. Below are six tips for parents for engaging in meaningful, constructive conversations.

1. Define the problem.

Why? Many teens and young people don’t know the range of behaviors that constitute misogyny and sexual harassment. Adults need to explain what these violations mean and provide specific, concrete examples.

Try this. Start by asking your teen or young adult to define misogyny and sexual harassment and to give you examples of each of these violations. Clarify any misunderstandings and provide common examples of harassment and misogyny, such as commenting on someone’s clothes or appearance when those comments might be unwanted. Ask teens to carefully consider what it might be like to be subject to comments like these. You can use our data to explain, for example, that while many men think catcalling is flattering to women, many women are frightened and angered by it. Make it clear that boys and girls can harass, and that even if the words or behaviors are intended as a joke, they risk scaring and offending others.

 

2. Step in and stick with it.

Why? If you’re the parent or guardian of a teen, chances are you’ll encounter a sexist or sexually degrading comment from them or their friends or peers. Yet too many adults stay silent when this happens. Passivity not only condones these comments, it can also diminish young people’s respect for us as adults and role models. Even if teens can’t absorb or act on our words in the moment, they often still register our words and internalize them as they mature.

Try this. Think about and consult with people you respect about what you might say if your teen uses a word like “bitch” or “hoe.” How might you react in a way that really enables your teen to absorb your message? You might ask questions that any thoughtful human is hard-pressed to answer affirmatively: “Why is this a way that you and your friends bond?” Consider what you might say if your teen says, “We’re just joking” or “You don’t understand.” You might explain how these types of jokes can come to infect how we think and act towards others and be interpreted by others as permitting and supporting sexual harassment and degradation. Talk to young people about the importance of listening to and appreciating their peers of different genders as a matter of decency and humanity, and work with them to develop empathy from a young age.

3. Teach your child to be a critical consumer of media and culture.

Why? Many young people are raised on a steady diet of misogyny and sexual degradation in popular culture but have never critically examined the media they consume or the cultural dynamics that shape their lives. You may be with your teen in the car and hear sexually degrading song lyrics or be together when you learn about an episode of sexual harassment in the news. It is vital that we speak up and help our children become mindful, critical consumers of this information.

 

Try this. Ask how your teen interprets something you’re hearing or watching that you find sexually degrading. Does your teen find it degrading? Why or why not? If you disagree, explain why you think the portrayal is harmful. Point out how misogyny and gender-based degradation in popular culture can be so common that they seem normal and can begin affecting our relationships with others in harmful ways. If you’ve had an experience similar to what you’re listening to or watching, such as being harassed on the street or in your workplace, and it’s age-appropriate to share with your teen, discuss it and talk about how it made you feel.

4. Talk to your child about what they should do if they’re sexually harassed or degraded.

Why? Many teens don’t know what to do if they’re harassed or degraded with gender-based slurs, whether it’s being called a “slut” or “bitch” jokingly by a friend or being harassed by someone they don’t know. It’s vital for us to help our children develop strategies for protecting themselves and reducing the chances of the offender harming others.

Try this. Ask your if they have ever been harassed or degraded with sexualized words or actions and how they’ve responded. If they haven’t had these experiences, ask them what they think they would do in different situations. Does this differ from what they think they should do? We don’t always do what we should. Discuss how they can get from “would” to “should” by exploring the pros and cons of various strategies for responding. Would they feel comfortable confronting the person harassing them, confronting the harasser with a friend, talking to a teacher or a school counselor, or talking to you or another respected adult? Consider role playing so they can explore strategies. Brainstorm with your child ways of responding in various contexts.

5. Encourage and expect upstanding.

Why? As ethical parents, we should expect our teens to protect themselves when they’re harassed or degraded, but also to protect one another. Because they understand peer dynamics, are more likely to witness harassing behaviors and often have more weight than adults in intervening with peers, young people are often in the best position to prevent and stop sexual harassment and misogyny among their peers. Learning to be an “upstander” is also a vital part of becoming an ethical, courageous person. Yet upstanding can be risky — perpetrators can turn on upstanders. That’s why it’s important to brainstorm strategies with young people for actions that protect both them and the victim.

Try this. Talk to your teen about the importance of being an ally to peers who are subjected to harassment or misogyny. You might start a conversation by asking, for example, what they would and should do if a friend is the target of different types of harassment. What about a peer who is not a close friend? Talk about what might stop them from intervening in these situations, brainstorm various strategies, or do a role play. Think through the specific words they might use.

6. Provide multiple sources of recognition and self-worth.

Why? Young people can be especially vulnerable to degradation and harassment if they’re highly dependent on romantic and sexual attention and on peer approval. Many young people are also vulnerable because they have lower social status or are marginalized among their peers. LGBTQIA youth may be especially vulnerable in this respect.

Try this. Encourage and support your teen in engaging in activities that build their confidence that don’t involve romantic or sexual attention or approval from peers. These activities might involve the arts, sports, or service to others. Talk to young people about solidarity and taking collective action against harassment and degradation. Sometimes girls and young women in particular can demean and undercut each other in the context of romantic and sexual relationships, and it’s important to underscore the power of standing together. This can be another important source of self-worth.

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What is anxiety? How can I help my child?

Anxiety is something most of us have had or suffer with on a regular basis. It's scary, stressful and it can be absolutely debilitating. When you are told to 'just get on with it' or 'get a grip' or 'it will be ok', it doesn't help. Any adult who has dealt with this, knows what it's like. 

It's the same for our kids, they need to be heard and we need to acknowledge that their fear is real. What can we do do to help?

I just read this blog and think it's worth a read so here it is:

When Your Child’s Anxiety is Making You Anxious: Repeat These 22 Phrases

April 3, 2017 by Renee Jain

 

As parents, we have a natural tendency to reach out to our children when they are anxious, scared, or stressed. What none of us can anticipate is how our children’s anxiety will cause us to feel anxious, helpless, hopeless, angry, or desperate. The next time your child is ridden with anxiety, repeat any of these phrases. You will be surprised that your child will likely mirror your reaction.

1. This too shall pass. Like all emotions, anxiety will pass. Our bodies cannot physiologically maintain the heightened level of awareness caused by anxiety for very long. Chances are that waiting ten to fifteen minutes will result in a change in anxiety levels.

2. Anxiety serves a purpose. Oftentimes we treat anxiety like there is something wrong with our child. In fact, anxiety serves an important biological function to keep us safe. Teaching your child to differentiate between anxiety that will help and anxiety that will hinder her/him is a valuable life skill.

3. Breathe. Deep breathing actually reverses the body’s stress response. When we are anxious, we tend to take shallow breaths. Taking three conscious, deep breaths will alleviate much of our anxiety.

4. We are on the same team. Have you ever watched two basketball players going for a rebound, fighting each other tooth and nail, only to realize they are on the same team? Remember, you and your child are on the same team and have the same goals.

5. I am my child’s guide. Remind yourself that your role is not to control the challenges your child will face but rather to be her/his guide through the experiences.

6. Observe. Observe. Observe. Instead of “doing something,” simply observe what is happening like an outsider. See if there are commonalities in your observations. By identifying triggers, you can help your child cope with them, thereby limiting your own sense of helplessness.

7. The only way to get across this swift, deep river is to go through it. Allow your own feelings, even if they are dark, to arise and pass. If this experience is like a river, it means there is also a riverbank waiting for you.

8. Stick to the routine. Anxious children thrive on predictability. You may not be able to do anything about the trigger, but you can reinforce the routine. Bedtime, family rituals, and morning routines center our children, better preparing them for the outside world.

9. Meditate. At our darkest moments, hope is rekindled simply by taking the time to be still and focus on our breath for a few moments.

10. Help is available. Hopelessness usually means you have exhausted your ability to deal with your child’s anxiety. Having another set of eyes on the situation may make all the difference in the world. Whether a professional counselor, a relative, or another trusted adult, turn to those in your child’s circle for help.

11. My child’s anxiety is not a reflection of my parenting. Stop questioning whether you should or could have done something differently with your child. Focus rather on what you can do as their guide through their challenges.

12. What would make my child laugh right now? Whether it’s a funny noise, a silly story, or singing the wrong words to a favorite song, laughter is the fastest way to make you both feel better.

13. I’m going to take a break. It’s okay to take five minutes of quiet time or put yourself in a place to reconnect with yourself when you are feeling angry. Not only are you modeling appropriate behavior, but you also have a chance to take a few breaths and remind yourself of a few of these phrases.

14. I love you. I’m here for you. Your children will experience stress that they cannot control. They will receive an injection, perform in front of an audience, and face challenges. Reminding them that you love them and are here for them is reassuring, not just for them but for you as well.

15. In this moment, right now, what can I do to reboot my well-being? Some days it will be getting ice cream; others it will be going for a run. Whatever it is, make a long list for yourself that you can reference when you need it.

16. She/he does not know how to deal with this. Frustration over our children’s anxiety can sometimes result from forgetting that they are trying to learn how to navigate a world of unknowns. Regardless whether their fear is rational, or of how many times you have been through this, ask yourself how you can be their guide.

17. I am on a beach. There is a reason why guided imagery is used during labor and delivery to reduce pain. It works! Imagine yourself in a soothing, happy place before you speak.

18. I am the adult. Simply remind yourself that you are the adult; you have the power to remain calm and provide heart-centered advice to de-escalate an anxious situation.

19. My job is to help my child become a functioning adult. When you put it into perspective, you must teach your child how to acknowledge, reduce, and wade through anxiety if she/he is to be a functioning adult. Suddenly, when your anxious child is crying about going to school, you can approach the problem as just that—a problem to be solved.

20. I have control over my reaction. Ultimately, the only person you can control is you. Govern your feelings, control your reactions, and then help your child learn to do the same. You can teach your child the art of emotional self-regulation by modeling it.

21. Progress is never linear. Coping with anxiety is not a linear process. It takes time and practice for you and your child. Don’t assume you are at square one when you experience a setback.

22. I’m doing the best I can. In this moment, with the tools you have, you are doing the very best you can. Some days your reaction to your child’s anxiety may be cool, calm, collected, empathetic, and thoughtful—on other days, perhaps not as much. We are all a work in progress, and you are doing the best you can.

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