14 Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Anxiety

A dear friend asked me a couple months ago for suggestions with helping kids with anxiety. These suggestions come from my experience as a mental health professional, a mom, and a human with anxiety. Here is what you need to know, and some ideas on how to help your child cope.

Anxiety presents differently in young kids than in adults

It will often present itself as physical symptoms, such as a stomach ache. This can happen with adults too, but since kids are still figuring out their emotions, how they work, and what triggers them, they don’t always recognize negative feelings for what they are. Help them connect the dots between their feelings and physical symptoms.

Kids generally don’t sit and talk about their feelings

If you want to create an opportunity for your child to talk to you about their feelings, pull out a game. Invite them to help you in the kitchen or the garden. Maybe ask them to go for a walk to the park, or if they want to take the dog for a walk with you. When I would do counseling with kids, I always  had an activity for us to complete during the session. Most kids just aren’t built to sit and talk. (Psst..many adults struggle with this too!).

Be present

Put the phone down. Let them know that you are there for them. Kids will often ask for what they need and want. Listen to them. If they are very young (or non-verbal/have a limited vocabulary) they will often do what they need. When my little toddler wants a kiss, he’ll put his cheek right up against my face and push against me until I give him a kiss. If he wants me to pick him up, he’ll grab my hands and put them under his arms. Kids will give cues as to what they need, watch for them. This can both prevent feelings of anxiety, and help them cope when they make an appearance.

Allow them to creatively express their feelings

Adults need creative outlets, kids are no different in this regard. Crayons, play dough, paint, anything that will allow them to creatively express themselves is a must. It might even be making mud pies, arranging dry rice…it really can be anything.

Feelings worksheets can be awesome tools

A coloring sheet depicting different emotions? Maybe even something they can refer to later to describe their emotions. I used these all the time when I would do counseling with kids.

For older kids, worksheets connecting emotions to actions and situations such as “When _____, I feel____” are excellent.

Bubble breathing

Pull out some bubbles. They will need to inhale fairly deep and exhale deep as well to blow bubbles. Its a fun and sneaky way to get your kiddo to do some deep breathing.

Don’t have bubbles on hand? No problem! Have them form a bubble with their hands. They can even say “pop!” or any other goofy word, when their hand bubble pops.

Kid yoga

Some basic poses will either be calming for your little human or make them giggle. Either way, they will feel better. Even just stretching can do the trick.

 

Change of scenery

Are you out in public and it is becoming overwhelming for them? Or are you home and they are going a little stir crazy? A change of scenery can do wonders to calm some anxiety.

Limit technology

Just like adults, technology is just fine in moderation but too much can result in feelings of anxiety and other issues. I am by no means saying ditch all technology. Moderation is key. Sometimes our personal sanity reaches its breaking point and we need a reprieve so we put a movie on for our kiddo we can hide in the kitchen and eat some chocolate (Not based on an actual experience 😉)

Weighted blankets

There is something about a nice weighted blanket that can calm the soul. It makes you feel grounded. There is something about that weight that is just soothing. We had them on hand back when I worked solely with children. Some of the kids loved them. There would be days that I would grab one and put it on my own lap while I completed my daily paperwork. It helped me to come down from my stress of the day and focus on recording my clients progress.

Story telling

Take turns telling a story. It can be serious. It can be goofy. The purpose is to engage their creative thinking, and take them out of the moment for second.

Reading

If they are older, they can read independently. If they are younger, read them a book. Get some cuddles while you are at it. The purpose is to go some where else for a little while, to leave those stressful emotions behind.

Allow them to help create their own plan

Kids deserve more credit than they often get. While they are still just figuring out their emotions, they know what they like to do. They might even know what keeps them calm, and what makes them feel better. Help them make a short list of ideas of what you can do together next time they feel anxious.

Your personal mental health

Kids pick up more than you would think. Do what you need to for you to manage your anxiety or depression. Don’t feel that you need to hide it from your kids, but do all you can to manage it appropriately. Maybe some of the techniques you use could work for your kiddo.

How do you help your children manage anxiety or other similar struggles?

 

8 Tips for Dealing with a Jerk

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that we will encounter some jerks as we go about our lives. I had the displeasure of coming across one of the meanest people I have ever met this week. I am very proud to say that I kept my cool and I treated them with respect. And in true Hailey fashion I wrote a post about it! (This post focuses on people you may come across in public. If you are in a situation where you are being abused in your home, call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233)

Here are my tips for dealing with meanies:

1. What they are saying is not true.

While they are spewing random garbage they may happen to come across one of your inecurities, but it’s just a coincidence. It doesn’t matter. It might feel deeply personal and offensive, but its really just a jerk being a jerk.

2. They are just trying to get you worked up, to get you to retaliate.

That’s it. They’ll say anything to try to get to you. Which brings us to our next tip…

3. Don’t sink to their level. Be the bigger person.

Nothing aggravates someone who’s trying to engage you in a verbal altercation more than when you maintain your cool and they realize that they can’t get to you. They sure don’t like it when they realize that they’ll have to roll around in the dirt all by themselves.

4. This isn’t forever. It’s temporary.

As Kimmy Schmidt says, “A person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds, then you just start on a new 10 seconds. All you’ve got to do is take it 10 seconds at a time”. This interaction will pass. It’s not even going to matter a month from now, a year from now. You might not even remember, or it will just be a story for you to tell. (Remember that time that jerk just started yelling?!).

5.  If you come across an individual like this in a public place, calmly walk away.

If you are at work and don’t have that option, tell them that if they cannot be respectul then they need to leave. Call security if necessary. I guarantee that no matter where you work your boss doesn’t want you to be treated in such a matter, nor do they want a scene unfolding in front of other customers, clients, or students. (If you are expected to put up with verbal abuse at your job, then between you and me you need to find a new place to work!)

6. They most likely have something going on in their life.

I personally hold the belief that there is usually a reason for people to behave poorly such as a family crisis, mental illness, etc. However, there is absolutely nothing that justifies being a giant jerk. You deserve respect no matter the circumstances in someone else’s life.

7. There isn’t always a “why”.

Unfortunately some people are just unkind, or maybe not self-aware enough to realize the consequences their actions have on others. Sometimes you just have to let it go, and stop ruminating on the “why” for someone’s poor behavior.

8. Once it’s over, it’s over.

When the interaction is (finally!) finished, process it with someone that you care about and trust, and then put it away. Don’t let them take up valuable real estate in your brain. They don’t deserve a second thought.

What are your tips for dealing with meanies? Let me know in the comments below!

7 Things to Say to Someone who is Struggling (Other than “What can I do for you?”)

We’ve all been in the situation where someone is struggling, and we say, “Let me know what I can do for you.” We walk away feeling charitable because we offered, and they leave feeling about the same because they almost definitely are NOT going to call.

So, what’s a better alternative?

First off…bring your offer into the present.

You’re talking to someone who is already struggling. Don’t put it on them to reach out to you to ask for something at a later date. They are living day to day anyway, and not thinking a lot about future.

Here are some ideas. Don’t offer more than two of these at a time to avoid overwhelming your friend, and gauge your level of closeness with the individual on which of these is appropriate.

1. Can I bring you a taco?

Be sure to make it clear that it isn’t a bother, and that you are already going. And it doesn’t have to be a taco, it can be any kind of food. But remember, friends don’t bring friends kale. Unless that’s their thing. However, carbs, grease and sugar heal the soul in a way that vegetables can’t. Remember that.  Make sure they know that they aren’t obligated to chat with you, or even let you inside.

2. Can I do your hair?

This one might sound odd, but hear me out. When I was depressed, it felt like so much work to wash and brush my hair. I have long, curly hair that tends to get horrifically tangled. I would pile it on top of my head in a messy bun day after day, and it would turn into a terrifying rats nest. I didn’t have the energy to deal with it. My hair became such a huge struggle for me, and I didn’t want to brush it because a terrifying amount of hair would fall out. If you can relieve this burden (or an equivalent task) for someone that you love, you are doing them a great service.

3. Let’s go for a walk! (Or drive!)

There is something about walking that makes it easier to be open. Also, it is so much easier to relax and let your worries fly away when you are in motion even if you don’t talk.

When I worked for a private agency providing mental health counseling, the building was in the front of a nice quiet neighborhood. During some sessions, we would go for walks. It was easier for my clients to talk because we weren’t just sitting there looking at each other. It relieves the pressure, and makes it easier for them to open up.

If the weather is gross, or if they aren’t in a situation where walking isn’t going to be relaxing for them, offer to take them for a drive. Getting out of the house for a non-essential reason is so beneficial.

4. Can your kids come over for a playdate?

Do you have kids that are about the same age? Invite them over to give your friend a break. You can invite them over, and let your friend do their own thing. They might take some time for catching up on their housework, or maybe some personal self-care.

5. What can I clean for you?

This is a tricky one. Some people absolutely do not want this, but it can be a life saver for others. If you know them well enough, (and you know it won’t bug them) then just go ahead and do what needs to be done. There are dishes in the sink? Wash them! The floor needs to be swept? Sweep it! But if you know its going to bother them, then don’t go there!

6. Want to watch a movie?

Something upbeat. Unless they specifically ask for a title that is a little on the darker side, choose something lighthearted that isn’t too much work to follow the plot line. Don’t push them to talk about anything they are experiencing, but be willing to listen if they want to talk.

7. Do you want to talk?

Offer them the opportunity, but don’t be pushy. Make it clear that there isn’t any pressure. And bring chocolate and tissues. Obviously.

 

What do you think is the best way to support someone who is going through a hard time?

10 Ways to Survive the Winter Blues

Let’s get real for a second. Winter is hard. I live in Idaho, and moved here from California. It’s been a pretty big adjustment, especially the winter. In the part of California I grew up in, winters are very moderate. With very few exceptions, it’s unheard of for it to get cold enough for snow.

Here in Idaho…it’s not rare to find ourselves in negative degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s too cold and too dry for it to snow! (I never knew that was even possible!) Cold enough where you take a deep breath of the fresh air, and find yourself with frozen nose hairs. Yikes.

Winter is hard for me. I feel like I’m stuck inside the house, and I’m so incredibly tired all the time. I just feel “off”.

I’ve written before about postpartum depression, and I want to address another mood disorder. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, and many people refer to it as the winter blues. You feel normal during most the year, but when we get to colder weather and shorter days, you find yourself feeling tired, as well as a litany of other symptoms that go along with depression.

Here are my tips as a mental health professional (as well as from my personal experience) to survive seasonal affective disorder, or the winter blues! I’m not a doctor, and if you are concerned about your mental health please schedule an appointment with your provider! This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.


1. Limit TV

Don’t get me wrong, I love binging Netflix. It’s nice every now and again to waste time and give yourself a break from life. If you start to sit for too long watching a mindless show, you’re going to start to feel tired and possibly depressed. Set limits for yourself, whether they be time limits, a certain amount of episodes, etc.

I also encourage you to only sit and watch if you are enjoying and actually watching what is in front of you. Don’t just watch something because it is on.

2. Open your curtains

If you have windows, let in the natural light! Even when it’s cloudy the natural light will make you feel better. It will remind you that you aren’t alone in this winter, and the outside world still exists.

3. Buy a Happy Light

I wouldn’t tell you to buy it if I didn’t think it was awesome. So buy a Happy Light! Every morning when I get to work I turn on my light and bask in the loveliness of it. I generally don’t have any appointments scheduled first thing in my work day, so I can use it with out worrying about bothering anyone. It works better for me to use it at work because I find myself sitting in one place much more at work than at home. ‘Tis the life of a toddler mom, am I right?

At work, I don’t have any windows in my office. In my role as a counselor, I spend most of my workday in this windowless room. I love my job, but spending that much time with out natural light can take it’s toll. The happy light fixes that problem for me. Get one for yourself in the link below!

4. Start a Vitamin D Supplement

This is another way to combat the lack of sunlight, and help your body make up getting less vitamin D naturally. Just take it at the same time as your daily vitamins so you don’t have to make much effort to remember.

5. Exercise

Physical activity does wonders for mental health. Those endorphins that you get from exercising make you feel so much better. Find a way to fit it into your busy schedule!

I go to the gym every morning before work to give myself an extra boost. I’m able to drop my son off a little early on the days he goes to daycare, and that works well for me.

Exercising at the same time everyday is much better than having an inner struggle everyday on when you are going to exercise, or if you are going to exercise. Just pick a time, stick with it, and it will become habit!

6. Do something creative

It doesn’t need to be a huge thing, it can be as simple as writing in your journal or drawing a picture. And you don’t need to do an entire project or activity from start to finish, you can totally just do one portion and do more tomorrow! Find a creative activity to give yourself an outlet!

I feel so much better when I do something creative. Whether it’s writing on the blog, doing a craft, or even busting out the sewing machine, I feel so much better if I do at least one creative activity in a day.

7. Stop the isolation

I love being a hermit and staying inside my house. However, if I don’t leave at least once a day or have some human contact (from other adults) I start to feel really terrible. Try to have at least one outing during the day, have a friend come over for lunch, or call a loved one.

8. Find a Winter Hobby

My husband is one of those weirdos who loves winter. Why does he love it so much, you might ask? He loves winter activities. Even though we haven’t had time to do many winter activities for the past few years with how crazy life has been, he still thinks of winter as a positive time because of those fun things you can only do when it gets cold and snowy.

Some ideas include snowboarding, sledding, building a snowman, driving to look at snow covered trees, and throwing boiling water up in the air and watching it freeze (very carefully please!). Having activities to look forward to that can only be done in the winter can change your whole mindset from dread to excitement.

9. Find the beauty in Winter

Even though winter is cold, there is beauty to be found. Freezing fog comes through in Idaho and gives the trees a beautiful and almost mystical appearance. Snow covering the roof of my house makes it look so cozy. Christmas lights covered in snow is one of the most beautiful things I’ve every seen. Snow muffles everything and makes it quiet.

If you don’t have snow, get creative in looking for the quiet beauty of winter. As someone who adores people individually but can’t stand crowds, I personally think its beautiful that there is basically no one outside in the winter.

10. Look for the positive

There are so many unexpected benefits of winter. You don’t have to shave your legs very often. You don’t have to mow the lawn. You don’t need to feel obligated to drag the kids out for an outing because there are hardly any places to take them. You have a built-in excuse to be a hermit for a little while. There are less people out if you choose to brave the cold and go for a run. Shorter daylight hours make it easier to put the kids to bed. Find the positive in your life, and focus on it.

How do you fight the winter blues? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Ways to Stop the Cranky Pants Dance

We all know that one person. The person who could be on fire with a stick in their eye, and they would still tell you they were “living the dream”. The person that simultaneously aggravates and impresses us. We want to smack them and also be them. Their lives aren’t inherently better than anyone else’s, they simply know how to cope with life and it’s many adventures, wanted and unwanted. Here are some tips to help YOU be that aggravating person who is unfailing cheerful!

 

Validate your emotions

Emotions don’t go away suddenly when you decide you don’t want them. Sadness and anger can’t be exchanged for store credit. (I know, super disappointing!) But they are easier to cope with when you give them a name and recognize them. An example would be “I felt helpless when I couldn’t figure out why my son was crying. I felt overwhelmed when he had a blow out on the way out the door. And I felt embarrassed when I got to work and realized that my shirt was on inside out. And all of these things together made me feel incredibly stressed out”. It’s acceptable, normal even to feel this way.

 

Stop looking for evidence

Stop looking for reasons to be happy. Stop looking for reasons to be sad. You control your destiny, and your mood, so quit letting the world around you influence how you feel. Just stop it. Your day, your week, your whole year can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if you let it. If you look for good, you will find it. However, if you look for bad you will find it as well.

 

Fake it

Sometimes the only way to get over a grumpy mood is to pretend that you feel good. If you smile enough, you will start to believe that you are actually happy.

Please don’t misconstrue this to mean that you should ignore significant mental health issues. I don’t recommend pasting a smile on your face and pretending everything is fine through a deep depression, but a simple cranky mood is a completely different story.

 

Tell those around you that you are cranky

Tip off the people around you that you are grumpy. This allows you to do two things. One, it allows you to poke fun at yourself. Whenever I say out loud that I’m cranky, I have to laugh a little bit because it makes me sound like a toddler. I’m usually grumpy because I need a nap and snack, so it’s really not too far off base!

 

The second benefit is that it allows those around you to know not to push you until you have gotten through this funk. It’s not the time to tease, it’s not the time to ask you to do something super difficult. They won’t know that unless you tell them!

 

Treat yo self

First off, I won’t ever apologize for using parks and recreation quotes on the blog. And with treating “yo self”, It doesn’t have to be food, but it can. It is WAY different to treat yourself when you need a pick me up versus stress eating. The main difference is moderation, and mindfulness. Enjoy every bite. Savor the taste. Other options include a new outfit, a walk in the park, or a nap.

 

Prayer

Sometimes this is bigger than us. We need some help shouldering our burden, and there is someone who is always more than happy to listen and give us the strength we need. Don’t be afraid to go to your knees get through a bad mood.

 

 

How do you cope with being super cranky?

What to Buy for a Baby Shower Gift (For any Budget!)

Before I had my son, I was super clueless on what to buy friends for baby showers. I would wander the baby aisle in the store for longer than I care to admit and eventually end up randomly choosing a few items and calling it good.

Sometimes the mom-to-be will have a registry, but if this is her first kid she might not have a clue of what to register for, and has left it up to you. Or maybe you got to the registry late, and only the really expensive items are left. You have to figure out what to get all on your own!

Then you have to decide on your budget. The current state of your bank account, your closeness to the mother-to-be, and any number of other factors affect how much you are willing to spend.

 

Guess what? Since you are reading this post, all you have to decide is how much you are willing to spend! Lucky you! I’ve broken down price points into 5 different categories, with multiple choices under each price point. All the items under each section are a similar price point, in increments of $10.

If you order on Amazon, you don’t even have to leave the house. And if you use the affiliate links below, I get a small commission at no cost to you. Everyone wins! Thanks for supporting my blog and allowing me to continue to provide free content. Each picture below will take you to a link to purchase the item.

Tiny Budget

If you are on a tight budget, one way to stretch your dollar is to buy a handful of inexpensive and practical gifts. Remmber, just because you are on a budget doesn’t mean your gift won’t be helpful.

Those small things add up in cost quickly for new parents, and the mom-to-be will be grateful for whatever you can give her!

Here are some of my picks for a small budget friendly baby shower gift. Diaper cream, binky, binky straps, socks and mittens, and baby wash.

 

 

 

Low Budget

Here are some baby shower gift ideas if you have a little more to spend. If you have a little more to spend, here are some ideas! Changing pad, portable changing pad, multi purpose nursing cover, bandana drool bibs, and a hooded towel.

 

 

 

 

Medium Budget

Baby bathtub, milestone chalkboard, jumbo teddy bear, car mirror (You can look back and see your little one, and it entertains them as well to look at their own cute face in the car), keepsake hand print kit, sound machine.

 

High(ish) budget

The person who buys her friend a diaper genie will be her hero. What a wonderful little gadget!  The bath kneeler, a diaper bag back pack (especially handy for moms with more than one kiddo) bottle warmer, and a play mat for the early days of their kiddos life.

 

 

High Budget

If you are close to the mom-to-be, and can afford to spend this much on a baby shower gift, here are some ideas of things that the mom to be will love and get lots of use out of! I love the baby k’tan wrap because it’s super easy to use (even for someone like myself who is folding and tying impaired). A measuring stick growth chart, a video baby monitor (below is the one that we have and we love it). Also a gift set of various baby essentials!

BONUS: A great add-on or stand alone gift:

Diapers/Wipes

Even if the mother is cloth diapering, there may come a time when they are all dirty and she needs a back up. Some mothers choose to cloth diaper during the day, and use disposables at night. It’s helpful to buy diapers and wipes so she has extras (because holy cow do those diapers go fast!) and it’s also not a bad idea to buy some size ones and twos so that when her kid is busting out of their newborn diapers, she has the next size up!

I hope this list of baby shower gift ideas was helpful. What are your favorite gifts to buy new moms?

Be sure to stop by my advice column here and leave me a question!