World Suicide Prevention Day: Resources

We've put together a list of Suicide Prevention resources. We're here to support you.

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Anxiety Response Plan

By Bob Mcnutt, LCSW

Anxiety is a normal part of everyday life for most humans. Each of us has a different ability to cope with or accept it. Anxiety typically promotes action or avoidance depending on our response style to distress. While there are a lot of “right” ways to deal with anxiety, avoidance is an inadequate response to get past distress in the long run.  Outlined below is a response plan that combines both coping and acceptance skills for dealing with anxiety.

Notice and label the physical symptoms of anxiety. Rate their severity independent of each other.  (The fuzzy pressure in my chest: 7/10, energy in my limbs 5/10, heat and pressure in the head 3/10, increased breathing rate 5/10, increased heart rate 7/10 . . . etc.) Notice the difference between discomfort and acute pain. Many times, anxiety is uncomfortable without creating active pain in our body, and it can be useful to note that difference when it is present. If useful, try to compare it to other uncomfortable experiences such as headaches or diarrhea that affect, but don’t ruin your day.  “Well at least it isn’t as bad as a migraine.”

Ask yourself: “am I in physical danger?” (Is there immediate harm to my body) and “am I in emotional danger?” (Is there immediate danger to my ability to maintain relationships, employment, self-worth? Is anyone emotionally attacking/berating me?).  If you feel you are in acute danger, find a way to increase your safety. If you can evaluate that you are not in danger, acknowledge that (out loud if possible) to help reduce chances of entering fight/flight/freeze mode.

Take 10 deep breaths (yes 10, not 1 or 2), and focus on connecting with the current moment and experience non-judgmentally (this is neither good nor bad, it just is). In your free time do some internet research around mindfulness skills to help with this process.

Investigate the message behind the anxiety: 

Evaluate your ability to act towards the stressor. Can you take effective action to reduce the stressor now? (This can be problem solving behavior, acceptance behavior or internal shifts in thinking).  Do you have to wait for a future condition to be met before you can take effective action towards the problem?  Are you powerless to take effective action to influence the problem?

If you can take effective action, TAKE ACTION IMMEDIATELY. Do not procrastinate or avoid an effective solution. If you are unable to act in the moment, make a plan with SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based) to address the problem when you are able. If you are unable to take effective action, acknowledge this lack of control and power. Combine soothing skills with this attempt to accept powerlessness.

COVID-19: Anxiety and Cognitive Distortions

By Kathleen Jones, PA-C

I came across an early study out of China where 1,210 people rated the psychological impact COVID-19 was having on them:

53.8% - Moderate - severe impact

28.8% - Moderate - severe anxiety

16.5% - Moderate - severe depression

Have you felt anxious in the past 2 months? I think we all have. I’m sure a study conducted within our own community would reflect similar numbers.

Our thoughts can run wild during times like these - it is important to try and catch these cognitive distortions until they spiral.

“Cognitive distortions” are thought patterns that cause us to view reality in inaccurate and usually negative ways. Left unchecked, they can worsen depression, increase anxiety and strain relationships.

Examples of cognitive distortions:

Overgeneralization:  “I heard of someone younger/healthier than me that died of COVID-19, so I will die too.”

Jumping to conclusions: “I will definitely get COVID-19 because I work in a hospital.”

Catastrophizing: “The world/economy is heading into chaos and won’t recover.”

Magnification/minimization: “This is not a big deal. The media is blowing it way out of proportion.” Or “This will lead to our ruin as a nation.”

Labeling: “I just found out I have COVID-19. When I felt sick, I didn’t practice social distancing. I am a failure.”

Emotional reasoning (belief that your emotions are the truth): “I am afraid, so we must all be in danger.”

I have definitely had some of these thoughts. So what can you do?

1 - Identify the thought.

2 - Try to reframe it (Any objective evidence? Alternate explanations? Gray areas?)

3 - Ask, is the thought helpful to you/others?

4 - Take what you learned and either dismiss the thought or grow (Could the thought be reframed to encourage change?)

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian Neurologist/Psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor. He wrote, “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

We are nowhere near the atrocities of the Holocaust, but we are in a unique and trying time. What can you do to make things a little easier on yourself, and others?

Friends With Myself: How Ketamine Helped a Frontline Therapist Overcome Panic Attacks

By Greg Ferenstein

On the surface, Emily* had a blessed life: a supportive husband, a loving son, and a solid career as a frontline therapist. She had all the professional training and social support to manage her mental health, yet she was plagued by debilitating panic attacks.

Even when nothing was wrong, she couldn’t escape intrusive, catastrophic daydreaming of how she was likely to wreck her family and community. She knew the thoughts were purely imaginary, yet the uncontrollable episodes of sobbing that accompanied these ruminations took a toll on both her family and office administrators.

As an example, Emily recalls being mildly afraid that she might cheat on her husband. That same day, she went through a grocery checkout line with a male cashier and was bombarded with thoughts of cheating on her husband.

“I immediately just lost it,” she says. “I cheated on my husband because I went through this line that had a male cashier.”

She burst into her home, began crying, and apologized to a very confused partner. She remembers thinking that “I just can't, I can't live like this.”

As a working mental health professional and current master’s degree student, Emily was surrounded by treatments and strategies to help her deal with her panic attacks.

And she did on occasion find them helpful.

Yoga, for example, helped give her space to contemplate quietly. “I was able to lay there and relieve some of my self-loathing and self-hatred and difficulty in accepting myself as a human.”

Unfortunately, nothing seemed to stick, partly because Emily was terrified to let her mind wander. “I get a little skittish around trying to create images in my mind because I don't trust my brain; any moment, this self-compassion exercise could be totally taken over by myself.”

As bad as the attacks were, Emily could still function as a loving mother and run a therapy practice while going to grad school.

But COVID tipped the scale; intrusive fears became too intense. Shopping at Target was a panic-inducing experience. “What if the girl that is spraying the carts right now doesn't believe in COVID? And so she actually just put water in the spray bottle …. And now I'm going to take it home, and we're all going to die?”

The constant fear became too much. She needed new solutions.

The ketamine experience

At this point, Emily was open to anything that could help. She heard about a clinical pilot for frontline healthcare workers offered by Novamind, a mental health startup specializing in ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

Ketamine, a dissociative anesthesia, was showing promise for a range of mental health issues, including suicidal ideation and depression.

Novamind’s clinic pioneered a method of pairing ketamine sessions with intensive psychotherapy.

Growing up in a religious community, Emily felt uncomfortable with psychedelics. But she was desperate for solutions and decided to sign up.

Emily was placed in a trial with other frontline healthcare workers exploring how ketamine-assisted therapy could help them overcome their mental health challenges.

In preparation for the treatment, they were given worksheets and instructions on how to mentally navigate the psychedelic experience. In between treatments, the group would come together for discussions and integration.

Emily recalls one particularly powerful psychedelic episode that rooted out the source of her panic attacks.

As she began to feel the effects of the ketamine, she remembers seeing a visualization of a black hole and asking the overseeing physician how she should interact with the bizarre object.

“The doctor encouraged me to go toward it and that he would be there if I needed. I asked to hold his hand.”

Images morphed, and she recalled herself a young religious missionary in South America. As an adult, she was no longer a member of her same church, and since leaving, maintained intense shame around trying to force religious beliefs on the local residents.

During the psychedelic experience, Emily felt the people of the town forgive her. They told her that her missionary work did not harm the community and that they were grateful to have known her.

Then, with that same compassion, Emily turned to speak to her childhood self, “I told her these thoughts that you have are called ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’, and you don't have to repent for them.”

Emily and her younger self openly discussed all the complex feelings around moral purity and guilt they would experience in their life. She forgave herself. And, in that moment, Emily acknowledged it as a significant source of panic attacks.

“It was a closure I didn't even know I needed.”

Better at managing attacks

Emily still experiences episodes of shame, but now, they don’t spiral out of control.

She recalls one recent example of an incident that would have triggered a panic attack prior to her ketamine treatment.

One day, she had thrown away a bunch of plastic. Normally this slight moral transgression would trigger intense feelings of guilt about how she was wrecking the planet.

“Yes, I will have the thought of like, ‘Oh my gosh, what am I doing to the earth’, but within moments, I'm able to go to a place of ‘Emily’, this is so hard for you, I'm so sorry that you struggle with this—everything's going to be okay.”

Emily estimates that before, she would have a debilitating episode about once every three weeks, and then more minor attacks in between.

Since her treatment, she has experienced just one triggering episode, but it was not as severe, and she was able to adopt new coping mechanisms.

In addition to a more stable family life, Emily believes she’s become a more empathetic and present therapist. “I'm able to be fully present in their story, instead of letting my mind wander off into my own story.”

Emily is a therapist in a community with a lot of mental health distress around religion. Her clients have become curious about her personal transformation and the role of psychedelic-assisted therapy. Emily says that she would recommend Novamind.

“Dr. Reid Robison and Dr. Stephen Thayer were really great at setting us up for success,” she exclaims. “I can't imagine doing this with any other people.”

*Emily is a pseudonym. Some quotes edited for clarity.

About the author

Greg Ferenstein is the founder of Frederick Research, a mental health innovation consulting firm. His research has been widely covered in leading publications, including the New York Times, The Brookings Institute and The Washington Post.

His field investigations in mental health have been supported by respected technology companies, from Google.org to Lyft and his public policy papers have influenced bills at the U.S. federal and state level.

Prior to founding Frederick Research, he taught statistics for journalists at the University of Texas and received a Masters in Mathematical Behavioral Sciences.

Interested in sharing your story? We'd love to talk.

Fully Present: How Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Helped One Woman Out of Depression

By Greg Ferenstein

Michelle* lived with constant anxiety that she would explode during an argument and enter into a months-long depressive episode. She’d tried so many strategies to manage her mental health, from group discussions to cognitive behavioral therapy, but nothing seemed to work well.

“Most of the therapy I’ve done just kind of muted my symptoms mostly, but I am still walking around with heavy, heavy depression and really terrible anxiety.”

Depressive episodes would socially paralyze her.

“I wouldn’t feel like I had any energy to do anything. I’d isolate myself,” she says. “I'm not social. I don't function besides what I absolutely have to function for.”

She could work but that was about it.

Unfortunately, the most effective solutions for her had intolerable side effects. The generic version of Zoloft, Sertraline, managed her major mood swings but came with “horrible” sweats that left her “drenched” in the middle of the night. Perhaps worse, it severed her emotions.

“It made me not care at all,” Michelle recalls. “I just kind of didn't feel anything.”

After her doctors recommended trying a higher dose, she went looking for something else. Her friends said good things about ketamine, a dissociative psychedelic that is known to help people confront painful topics and manage a range of mental health conditions, including depression.

Michelle was nervous. She had some not-so-positive experiences with psychedelics when she was younger. Even though it was years ago, she didn’t like the idea of losing control of her mind.

The therapists at Numinus made her feel more at ease with their Emotion-Focused Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy, which pairs intensive emotional management and trained mental health professionals with multiple rounds of in-person ketamine sessions.

The Ketamine Experience

The psychedelic portions of ketamine treatment typically last an hour and many people report hazy dreams representing unprocessed challenges.

After years of therapy, Michelle believed she knew the source of what she might encounter: being abandoned by her mother as an adolescent and subsequent years in-and-out of near homelessness.

Instead, her most healing psychedelic experiences were simple and pleasant experiences.

She remembers telling her husband, “Maybe this is what it feels like to feel normal.”

The simple absence of anxiety was profound. After one session, she burst into tears.

“I just started crying and crying and crying,” she recalls. “I really felt like it helped me release those emotions, and relieve some of that pain and all of the struggle that I had when I was a child with my family.”

During another psychedelic experience, Michelle set an intention and drifted into a meditative state, daydreaming of swimming. Usually, when water was involved in Michelle’s dreams, it was a nightmare drowning sensation. This watery dream, though, was superbly healing.

“I have been a hyper-vigilant person, always looking for the next thing to crumble in my life,” she says. “But with ketamine, just to even have that feeling that I'm okay—and that I'm happy—was huge for me.”

Introspection, fewer explosions, less depression

In the three months since Michelle had her first ketamine treatment with Numinus, she has learned to better manage her emotional triggers.

One example stands out. Because of their shared traumatizing past, her family has had a tendency to set her off. But the last time they had a fight, Michelle recalls being able to remove herself from the argument, sensing that she was about to explode, and embrace her feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them.

“It's getting easier for me to recognize, even in conversation.”

She feels more in touch with her emotions, and if things start feeling really bad, she can discuss her emotions openly in a way that defuses the situation.

Her relationship with her husband has improved and she is no longer burdened with extended bouts of depression. She’s made incredible progress, but Michelle still struggles with explosive episodes and depression. So, she continues to go in for occasional ketamine treatments.

But she no longer needs antidepressants.

“It has really, really, honestly been the only thing that has helped me feel normal without taking a pill every single day.”

*Michelle is a pseudonym. Some quotes edited for clarity

About the author

Greg Ferenstein is the founder of Frederick Research, a mental health innovation consulting firm. His research has been widely covered in leading publications, including the New York Times, The Brookings Institute and The Washington Post.

His field investigations in mental health have been supported by respected technology companies, from Google.org to Lyft and his public policy papers have influenced bills at the U.S. federal and state level.

Prior to founding Frederick Research, he taught statistics for journalists at the University of Texas and received a Masters in Mathematical Behavioral Sciences.

Managing Anxiety in Troubled Times

This has been a unique and challenging time for our patients, our community, and the world. But along with challenge comes the opportunity for growth. Over the next several weeks we will be periodically posting ideas for maintaining or improving mental health during this time of social distancing and increased anxiety. Covid-19 has presented us with several unique challenges all at once. These range from fear of ourselves or loved ones contracting the illness, to job insecurity, relationship stress and many others. One helpful technique that you can try today is thought labeling.

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Thought labeling has been used for thousands of years for meditation practice but can be used for more mindful daily living as well. The problem with anxiety is that it is your minds way of telling you that something needs to change or be done. That’s not always a problem, especially if it is a problem that you can take some time and work it through to a solution. The issue arises when now is not the time to solve this problem. So, when an anxious thought comes into your mind ask yourself is this a problem I can solve? If yes, then ask, is now the time to solve this? If yes, then do so. Pull up a chair and a notepad, write it all down and work out some possible solutions. If the answer is no to either of the previous questions, then it’s time to let it go.

Our brains are funny things. They like everything to make sense and each idea or mental object to have its proper place in the filing cabinet of our mind’s storeroom. Anxiety is worse when a problem or idea doesn’t have a neat place designated in that storeroom, but we can create a mental box to place it in. This is where thought labeling really works and here is what you do. When you notice a thought that is anxiety producing and you have answered no to the questions “can I solve this” or “is now the time to solve this”, you label that thought with a word. Any word will do. This is your box. I like the labels of “Past” for thoughts that come from the past or “Future” for anxieties about the future. You can also use “Useful”, “Not Useful”, or “Fear”, “Judgment”, but really anything can work.

Once the thought has been labeled you will find that it’s much easier to move past it and get on with things that you find more helpful, fulfilling, or meaningful. This is a practice and you are strengthening your mindfulness muscles. The thoughts may return but when they do be kind to yourself; just label them again and put them back on the mental shelf. Try this first with low or medium intensity anxieties and then move on to the more difficult ones. Doing this each day will bring you one step closer to a more peaceful and “in the moment” existence where you can give your full attention to what matters most.

Be kind to each other and remember, be kind to yourself.

Sincerely,

Landon Moyers, DNP

Social Anxiety: A Modern Issue for an Ancient Brain

Written by Dr. Landon Moyers, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC

Consider the strange and wonderful world we live in.

Many of us are lucky enough to have what we need to survive: food, shelter, safety, and people who love us. Despite this relative security, many of us still find ourselves stuck in a cycle of social anxiety.

Social anxiety is the psychological and physiological discomfort that we feel when we are faced with potential evaluation by others. This can look like fear of meeting new people, speaking in public, or being in large crowds.

Why do humans feel strongly about what others think about us? And why do we let these feelings affect us so much that we avoid participating in the activities we love or achieving the goals we are passionate about?

The answer lies in the fact that human beings are built for connection. We are a social species that ultimately depends on group efforts, knowledge, and strength of resources for survival.

Imagine for a moment that you are living several thousand years ago. If you are like most people, you do not live in a town or city. Your social group most likely consists of 10-50 who include your immediate and extended family members.

You may occasionally meet up with other groups for weddings or rituals. It is likely that at some point, you will likely be involved in a coming-of-age ceremony or ritual as a rite of passage into adulthood, ensuring your status in the group, as well as the ability to find a mate. You have prepared for this throughout your lifetime as an event that will take place sometime just after puberty, or at the least your early twenties.

Failing this rite of passage might result in the rejection by your group, not to mention the loss of your status, the right to a mate, and the protection and support of your clan—not an ideal time to be left isolated without a social group, especially in a world of large predators, environmental exposure, and constant threats from rivals. This is the world in which the human brain developed.

Only in the last thousand to several hundred years has our world and social environment required a very different approach to life. We live next to people we hardly know. We send our children to school with hundreds (or even thousands) of fellow social competitors and we expect them to get along and learn well. We have splintered into smaller social groups or families that have much higher levels of fluidity and impermanence.

In our increasingly secular society, we have removed many of the traditional rights of passage and replaced them with an academic/career system that often does not award any level of achievement or status until our late 20s-30s. This aligns perfectly with the age groups in which social anxiety is most prevalent (ages 15-35) where it is at its worst in the early twenties and decreases as people age.

Interestingly, we are wired for anxiety because we are wired for connection. We are wired to respond to rejection or lack of status as a threat to our survival.

Today, the significance of rejection is far less and the opportunity for it is far higher. But our alarm system still says it is significant and it makes us feel terrible. The problem is that human brains have not evolved as fast as our modern world.

The ancient alarm system built into the amygdala—the feeling part of the brain—tells us we will die or lose the chance for a mate or access to resources if we are “rejected.” Our neocortex—the thinking part of the brain—however, can be used to calm our brain’s ancient structures and help us recognize that the threat is not as dangerous as it may seem.

In moments of social anxiety, taking a moment to thank your body for the natural responses it provides to your environment. Second, recognize that the threat is not as dangerous as your amygdala says it is.

Finally, take a moment to reorient yourself to the here and now. Breathe in deeply for several seconds or try to focus on and name the things you can see. Choose to move forward mindfully, with a deep respect for the past and a strong commitment to living in the present moment.

Episode 26: Back-to-School Anxiety During the Pandemic with Dr. Tamara Soles

 

“As we shift to going back to school during this pandemic, there is an opportunity for everybody to ask, ‘what do you have control over in your life?'”

In this episode of the Numinus podcast, Dr. Joe speaks with Dr. Tamara Soles. Tamara is a psychologist specializing in child mental health and well-being. Her practice focuses primarily on coaching parents on how to best support their children in developing resilience. She is the founder and director of The Secure Child clinic, which provides therapy for children, coaching for parents, and workshops and classes. Her website DrTamaraSoles.com has lots of useful content for parents as well as links to her podcast, This Hour Has 50 Minutes.

Dr. Soles and Dr. Joe spoke about:

Connect with Dr. Tamara Soles on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and her website.

Connect with Dr. Joe on FacebookTwitter,LinkedIn and Instagram

Follow Numinus on FacebookTwitter,LinkedInInstagram.

 

Here are some highlights from their conversation:

What are some of your go-to tips or strategies that you advise people try on when they need to support their children?

As always, regulate yourself first. Make sure that your own anxiety as a parent is in check. I have had clients, even last week, who were saying, ‘My mother has this health condition. And I’m so afraid that I’ll go to school that I’ll forget to put my mask back on. Or I’ll forget to wash my hands after eating.’

They’re taking on so much of that responsibility, and feeling like it’s their burden to keep their parents safe. And trying to help that child and that family put the responsibility where it belongs. In other words, saying, ‘Your parent is aware of their health condition. And they’re aware of the precautions that are being taken by the school. So if they’re choosing to send you, then they are accepting that the level of risk is safe for your family. Which means that they know and trust that you will do the best that you can.’

And especially in a child–yeah, there are going to be times where they don’t remember to wash their hands. And there are going to be times where they don’t put their mask on all of the time.

So helping that burden shift off of the child’s shoulders and onto where it belongs in terms of the responsibility.

So the parent taking care of themselves, helping a child see what is in their control, what’s their responsibility, and then the overall wellness things that we would always talk about. So for example, deep breathing, meditation, using a bed time guided meditation, starting the day with rituals–I think rituals are very grounding practices that help reduce anxiety and build connection, which is the one-two punch for helping a child through any situation.

So when we can for example, start the day with saying the same thing or singing the same song together to get us going in the morning. Those rituals provide predictability to kids. And predictability in these times is so necessary when so much is unpredictable about this virus and our current situation.

So introducing ritual, introducing predictability, introducing meditation or deep breathing, making sure that we’re moving and exercising, fresh air, getting enough sleep. So all of those foundational things that we would do to help treat anxiety in any given situation. It’s just the necessity for it right now is higher.

Managing Back-to-School Stress during the COVID-19 pandemic

Back-to-school stress is a normal occurrence for most children. But this year’s coronavirus outbreak has led to increased anxiety around this already stressful time of year. Here are some tips to help your child or teen manage some of the changes they will encounter this year and the complicated emotions they will face now that they are back at school.

Promote self-care & practice relaxation activities

Self-care is an important part of wellness. Encourage your child to engage in activities that promote self-care and relaxation on a daily basis. It’s important to note that sometimes children may need to take time to discover what activities help them feel good and recharge. So, encourage them to try a variety of activities. Some self-care activity examples include; writing in a journal, colouring/drawing, taking space to listen/dance to music, meditation, watching a movie or reading a book, and keeping active. Relaxation exercises that are important to promote include; deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, or grounding exercises. You can find many guided relaxation activities online or through mobile applications. And don’t forget! Parents need self-care too! Make sure to also create them to engage in your own self-care activities.

Avoid second-hand anxiety

Children and teens are extremely in sync with their parents’ well-being. If you are anxious and make a lot of statements of worry, then most likely your child will pick-up on that anxiety and emulate it. It’s important that parents have a space to express their worries and vent but try as much as possible to do so behind closed doors.

Have open and age-appropriate conversations

Youth are aware that a virus exists, and it has had an impact on their life and school environment. It is important to have an honest, age appropriate discussion with your family about what is happening, procedures that the school is implementing, and how they can help and stay healthy. Not talking about it may cause more anxiety in your child. Begin by finding out what your child(ren) know about the current situation, what they understand, and what information needs to be corrected. In an age appropriate way, answer any questions they may have. It’s ok to say when you do not know something. Tell them you will do some research to find out and get back to them. Its also ok to acknowledge that the situation is stressful for both you and them.

Validate emotions

This is a difficult time for everyone. It’s important to have conversations with your child about their emotions, encourage a space for them to talk, and ask specific questions about their feelings around starting school. For example; you can ask a younger child what they miss/don’t miss about being in school? What they are worried about/excited about in going back to school? You can provide younger children with a fun activity, like colouring, to introduce the topic and keep the conversation flowing. Its also important that when your child/teen is talking about their emotions you don’t go into “problem-solving” mode right away. First step is always to validate how they are feeling. For example, “I can see that you’re feeling X, that’s normal. It’s a difficult time right now.” Help your child with labeling their emotions if you see they are having a hard time identifying how they feel. Finally, try to avoid minimizing how they are feeling (e.g., “just tough it out”), but validate that what they are experiencing is normal in the given situation (e.g., “It’s normal to feel upset when our whole routine is changed, many people are feeling the same way right now”).

Involve students in decisions

Children and teens have very little in their control when it comes to how the school is going to function. Having them involved in some decisions (especially for teens) is very important. Feeling some sense of control helps decrease high stress and difficult emotions. Letting your child choose the colour/design of their mask, having them choose their lunches, or providing choices for social activities are easy ways to provide choices and include your child in the decision-making process.

Equip students with situational knowledge

Talk to your child about the protocols currently in place at the school to keep them safe and the strategies they can take to help maintain that safety. It’s important that your child understands how to properly wash their hands (and to wash hands often), what physical distancing means, and how they can implement it at school. There are many YouTube videos that demonstrate the proper way to wash your hands and the benefits of washing hands regularly. Further, with younger children it might also be helpful to role play scenarios that they might encounter at school.

Monitor media consumption

There is a tremendous amount of information being shared on social media, television, YouTube, etc., that is not always accurate. Further, constantly watching the news and consuming COVID-19 updates and stories can significantly increase anxiety and stress. It’s not only important to monitor your child’s media consumption for accuracy, clarify any new information they receive, but also limit the amount of virus-related media they are consuming.

Keep a routine

Although school protocols and procedures may feel like they are constantly changing, it helps to gain some resemblance of normalcy by controlling the aspects one can control. A routine can help in providing this sense of normalcy and control during the pandemic. Creating transition routines for after school activities like washing their hands when the enter the house, changing their clothes, and engaging in a self-care or relaxation activity can help alleviate anxiety.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule

Sleep is essential for many reasons including managing stress, anxiety, and promoting general psychological well-being. Some simple and important sleep hygiene strategies include, keeping a consistent sleep schedule (wake-up and bedtime), schedule your “ideal” amount of sleep hours, limit napping (especially late in the afternoon), reduce electronic use at least 1-2 hours before bed, make the bed a sleep-only zone (i.e., no homework done in bed!), develop a relaxing bedtime routine that can be followed each night, and avoid substances that can interfere with sleep (e.g., caffeinated drinks and foods).

Organize time with friends

Finally, in some school’s students are being separated into classrooms or “pods” that do not change throughout the day. If your child is not in a group with their friends, it is important to organize regular and scheduled physically distant activities and social time outside of schoolSocialization and friendships are extremely important to child and adolescent development and it will help in decreasing your child’s anxiety to know that they will not be missing out on spending time with their friends.

If your child is experience very high levels of stress or anxiety you can also seek professional services which are available in both the private and public sectors.

For additional information on the Quebec back-to-school protocols currently in place visit:

https://cdn-contenu.quebec.ca/cdn-contenu/adm/min/education/publications-adm/covid-19/plan-rentree-2020-en.pdf?1598463227 – English

https://cdn-contenu.quebec.ca/cdn-contenu/adm/min/education/publications-adm/covid-19/plan-rentree-2020.pdf?1597860080 – French

Episode 22: Eco-Anxiety with Professor Susan Clayton

 

 “While optimism is certainly associated with individual well-being, it’s what allows us

to take action. If you’re a pessimist, then why bother?”

In this episode, Dr. Joe speaks with Susan Clayton, Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster. Susan is a globally-recognized authority on the mental health impacts of climate change. She is the lead author of the American Psychological Association (APA) report on Mental Health and Our Changing Climate and a contributor to the upcoming report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She is also the author and editor of the Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology and Identity and the Natural Environment. Her work focuses on the intersection of mental health, environmentalism, and social psychology.

In this episode, Dr. Joe and Professor Clayton explore:

If you’d like some support in coping with your concerns about climate change, Numinus can help. We are launching an eco-anxiety support group in January and we have a few psychologists who specialize in this area. Please visit numinus.com/eco-anxiety for more information.

For more information on eco-anxiety check out Dr. Joe’s article on the Numinus blog and his interview on Radio-Canada.

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Here are some highlights from their conversation:

Building Resilience, Taking Action, and Social Connections

One of the things that I recommend to people is that they take action to cope with their eco-anxiety. What kind of action do you recommend people take if they’re experiencing eco-anxiety?

I definitely encourage people to take action. But I leave it to them to decide what they’re comfortable with. I could certainly offer people my opinion about what would be the most effective thing to do. But some people might want to focus on changing their own lifestyle. Some people might want to get politically involved. I think getting actively engaged in some way is more important in terms of personal resilience than–

So why is taking action helping build resilience?

Two reasons.

One of the things that I think underlies a lot of this anxiety is helplessness. So if you do something, you don’t feel as helpless. You feel like you have been able to make a difference at some level. And that’s really important.

I think another fringe benefit is–particularly, I encourage people not just to get engaged, but to find ways to engage with other people. So they’re strengthening their social connections.

There are all kinds of positive social experiences that can be involved. I think anyone who has participated in a rally or some sort of group organized event knows that fellow feeling, that self-congratulation in a good way when you actually succeed in getting something done or just that you’ve all experienced this together.

So those positive emotions and social connections also contribute to resilience.

Just for the record, the third recommendation that I do give people is to stay connected to friends, family, and colleagues around these issues because it’s important to not suffer alone. 

 

A Possibility for Transformation

Is there anything else you wanted to add?

Just an emphasis on the possibility for transformation.

It’s always hard to believe that change is going to happen. But actually social change has happened enormously in my lifetime, just in terms of the internet and smartphones, which are relatively new. I mean my students got them when they were in middle school or high school, but they didn’t grow up with them. And yet, I think we would all agree that smartphones have completely changed the way we live our lives. And inventions are happening faster and faster. So I think more and more things are on the way.

I think it’s helpful to think not just ‘Oh my God. This terrible climate change stuff is happening. And we’re going to have to change our lives, and it’s all going to be bad.’ But to recognize that this is kind of an opportunity to change society in hopefully some ways that will be good because I think most people would say there are ways society can be improved right now. And maybe the kinds of changes that climate change will force us to make will be changes that actually have other benefits.