Be Mindful

In my last blog I touched on the concept of mindfulness, and forcing ourselves to live in the present. Trying to train our minds to only think about what is happening right now, not what has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future. Unfortunately we live most of our lives with our minds taking us where we want to go. Our thoughts tend to control us, instead of us controlling our thoughts.mindful2

One example of this is test anxiety. In most situations it is good to have some anxiety before a test; it encourages us to study so we can do well on the test. If however our thought turn to the past (I almost failed the last test and this one will be harder, I did not get very many of the homework questions right, I am going to worse on this test)…, or the future (If I fail this test my parents will be disappointed in me, I am going to have to go to summer school, that will ruin my summer, I am so stupid and a total failure…); that is when our thought control us negatively. We need to be able to concentrate on the present, try and learn the material for the test, seek help if we need it. Do whatever it takes to keep us on track and doing what needs to get done to deal with the present situation. The thing is, you will still have to study and write the test (deal with whatever is happening in the present moment, and deal with the emotions being brought up by your thoughts of the past and/or the future.

Sometimes a bad experience doing something (especially for the first time) will cause you to avoid doing things, or trying new things. “I am not going to the dance because last time nobody talked to me; they ignored me, and teased me because I did not dance with anyone.” Or, “I don’t want to do that, I am not as good as everyone else and people will tease me or laugh at me if I fail or mess up.”

Again, it is easy for our minds to wander and react in the above way, but we need to be able to control our thoughts to look at the present and not let fear of rejection or failure stop us from doing or participating in things. The reality of it is, living in the past or the future, a majority of the time, will trigger painful emotions instead of positive thoughts.

EMOTIONS1

The first step in becoming mindful is to think about your current patterns or habits so that you can think about what changes can be made. Try to notice when and where your thoughts tend to wander. Do you dwell on the past, or are you constantly worried about the future?

Do your thoughts tend to wander when you are doing certain things, or when you are in certain situations, places, etc.?

When your thoughts do wander, what emotions are triggered?

Try answering these three questions, maybe even keep track of them over the next little while, so that you realize the things that bother you and the areas you need to work on, to try and ease your anxieties.


Mindfulness

In my last few blogs I have talked about tips to help parents help their child (children) with anxiety problems. What I have learned is that if a system, or way of doing things (as the parent) has been established it is difficult to implement all of the things that have been suggested unless you are cognitively aware of the things your child is doing, and consistent in establishing routines and setting consequences in advance.

The other side of things is; what can a child with anxiety do to help himself or herself? Of everything I have heard from different speakers, or read on line or in books, the paramount way to help yourself is developing ‘mindfulness and learning self-awareness.’ In simplified language – helping you control your thoughts and finding ways to cope with internal distractions.

What is mindfulness?mindfulness

In her book, ‘Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life For Teens’ Sheri Van Dijk says it is about paying close attention to what you’re doing in the present moment, noticing when your attention wanders, and bringing it back to what you’re doing. It is also about accepting, or not judging, whatever you happen to notice in the present moment, whether it’s thoughts you’re having, emotions that are coming up, things that are distracting you, or whatever.

Life is full of distractions, and what mindfulness does is try to help you deal with the distractions. It cannot help in all situations because sometimes the distractions are not things we can control. What it tries to do is allow an individual to control distractions when they are internal. I am sure everyone can remember a time they had to re-read something they have just read because, simply put, our mind was elsewhere. I know I love the fact that I can pause and or rewind live TV because I just missed something. Maybe it is because somebody was talking to me, or you were doing something else while watching TV, but maybe it is because my mind was wandering.

Why is mindfulness important for the person with anxiety?  It is important because often times when their mind is wandering, it is about things that make them anxious (an upcoming test, homework, something at home, a friend who is upset with you….). Mindfulness, if done correctly, can help this person to be able to concentrate more or solely on what they are currently doing and in turn, allow them to remove the stressors (anxiety) they are feeling.

In other words, if you are not thinking about the present, you must be thinking about the past or the future, and probably not about happy things – more often than not, (especially for anxious person) you are thinking about what did or might go wrong, or things that generate painful emotions – sadness, anger, shame…, this triggers the anxiety and causes more internal distractions.

Mindfulness is about living in the present so you are not living in the future or the past. It is realizing that things are okay just the way they are, right now in the moment even if the moment is not great or full of happy emotions. The thing is, even if you have to deal with what is actually going on in the present, it is better to do that, than dealing with the emotions being brought up by thoughts of the future or the past as well as the present.

There is so much more I can say, as mindfulness is a huge thing, I will touch on how to become mindful in my next blog.mindful

More Anxiety Tips…

In my last blog I talked about anxiety in children and offered some tips to help your child deal with anxieties. I want to stress again how difficult it is to follow the steps. The thing you have to remember is these are tips offering long term solutions and life strategies, not immediate response tips. In the moment they are the hard things to do. What you want, and it’s the job of any parent, is an adult who can function in society in any situation they may face, be it social, job related or by chance.

To continue on the list I started last time, I am going to offer some more tips, but first let’s revisit some of the suggestions from last time:

self awareness

  • Reduce excessive stress
  • Create a routine
  • Give consequences
  • Be supportive
  • Encourage their independence
  • Build their self-confidence

Set realistic expectations. It is important to have expectations, but remember that an anxious child may get frustrated if goals or expectations do not seem attainable. Break larger tasks into smaller steps and offer encouragement so your child feels a sense of accomplishment. Let them take steps forward, but let them do it at their own pace.

Control your reactions. Although it is important to be understanding and caring, do not overreact or let anxiety trick you into thinking that something is too hard or impossible for your child. Keep things in perspective. Yes, it might be challenging, but it can be done! On the other side of the pendulum, sometimes it is hard to understand our child’s anxiety or why something is so difficult for him or her. When we don’t acknowledge that our child is having a hard time with anxiety, the child may try to hide it (and suffer alone) or the symptoms may become more pronounced, (the pouting, arguing or misbehaving) in order to get the attention he or she needs.

Be Self-aware. It can be very difficult dealing with an anxious child. As important as it is to control your reactions for your child’s sake you also must manage your own reactions, for your own good. Do some things for yourself (enjoy a night out, read a book when the kids go to bed, go for a walk, or whatever helps you keep a positive perspective). Remember the basics: eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise! You can’t be helpful to your child if you don’t take care of yourself. You also need to be careful not to pass fears on to your children. Try to present a neutral reaction to situations and let you child know it’s safe to explore things.

Try Something New

Take Risks. This is true for everyone, but doubly important for an anxious child, so that they can build self-confidence and develop the necessary skills for dealing with people and their environment. Encourage your child to try new things such as ordering the pizza, or asking the store clerk a question. The other thing to remember is that children learn from example, so you can model brave behaviour by trying new things yourself.

Avoid Avoidance! Anxious children tend to want to avoid things that cause them anxiety. Even though avoiding things may reduce stress in the present, it allows fears to grow and makes things more difficult in the future. Avoid letting your child avoid things. Instead, encourage him or her to try things and take small steps towards facing fears!

Once again I do not offer this information as an exhaustive list, but as someone on a learning curve myself. Stay true to what you believe and know is right for the big picture, and not to simplify or ease the present situation. 

What I’ve Learned about Anxiety in Children (…so far, anyways)

As the parent of an anxious child, I have been researching (and experimenting with) different methods of not only reducing anxiety in children, but ensuring that their self-confidence is intact and behaviour is appropriate.

It is our job as parents to teach.

Many people are reluctant to change, especially children. Some children are markedly more anxious about doing tasks, going places, working through a problem (and the mistakes that are ultimately made), trying new things, etc.

As parents we must help them to learn how to cope with these challenges rather than avoid them.  Trying to avoid stressful or anxious situations does not teach your child how to cope. It does not give him/her the sense of pride and accomplishment. Children need the chance to face their fears, complete a task, or solve their own problem. Each challenge and task faced successfully gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Anxiety can be a funny creature. Sometimes it takes on the form of sadness and even defiance. No parent wants to see their child sad (or defiant). So, often we find ourselves accidentally teaching anxious kids inappropriate coping strategies. We do this by ignoring inappropriate behaviour (I’m constantly nagging, it seems!), solving problems for the child (“here, let me do it!”, instead of guiding them through the process) and taking over responsibilities that the child may have complained about (somebody has to do the dishes!). Although these tactics temporarily smooth things over and the child is seemingly happy, we have inadvertently taught the child that whining, complaining and refusing, does pay off.

3D Character with head in hands, sitting on the word Stress

Some tips to help reduce anxiety in children

Reduce excessive stress or tension in your home (excessive fighting or arguing) that can have negative effects on the child. It is also beneficial to plan something that can be done together each day, even if only for a short period of time (listen to music, do chores, read a story, go for a walk). You also need to be quick in dealing with family conflict (but not try to solve problems for them), and finally try to minimize showing your frustration by not yelling or raising your voice.

Make a routine. Construct a schedule with specific times for homework, quiet time, meals, and personal time. Establish a routine for bed time that may include reading or ‘chat’ time between child and parent. Keeping an open line of communication will help develop better ways to manage their anxiety.

Give consequences. Your child’s anxiety does not give him or her right to behave poorly, improperly or inappropriately. It is really important to set expectations and limits for your child – and follow through on the consequences for inappropriate behaviour. (Maybe losing computer or television privileges if chores are not completed). The other important part of this is to set these limits and consequences in advance, and discuss them with all family members at a calm time. Children are happier when they know the rules and what happens when they break them. Finally, just as important as setting these limits; be sure to give praise and sometimes rewards when your child meets or adheres to the expectations. You do not want to reward them for everything they do, but just knowing that sometimes they will get a reward (without expecting it all the time) is a good stimulus. (This is true, especially when they see others getting rewarded for doing things).

Be supportive. Let your child know that it is normal to have fears (we are all afraid of something) and that we can learn to deal with them. Listen to your child when they are upset, and let them know that it is okay to talk about their feelings. Help them figure out ways to deal with stress, and realize that you understand their fears. (I know you do not like…., but how can we make it easier for you to do?) Do not be afraid to use humour as it one of the best ways to deal with stress, just make sure you are not laughing at them.

Encourage their independence. It is extremely tempting to want to do things for your anxious child, especially when they are nervous or fearful – or to avoid an unwanted response, outburst or behaviour, but it is better to let them do things for themselves. That is how they learn the skills and abilities to cope with life. Encourage them to try things on their own, give them responsibility and brainstorm ways to deal with problems or situations (make up for a missed assignment at school, or deal with a problem with a friend). Remember through everything you need to be supportive to your child and they need to know you support them, but taking over and doing everything for them, does not benefit them in the long run.

Build self-confidence. Praise your child for his/her accomplishments and for facing their fears. Involve them in activities that make them feel proud, something they are good at, and help them instill a sense of belonging and pride. Give them chores and tasks that they can succeed at and earn praise. Every little accomplishment adds to their self-confidence.

children

 So, what have I learned? 

  • I’ve learned is that following these tips is not easy!
  • Being consistent in dealing with your anxious child is most important. It is difficult, time consuming and sometimes makes you feel like you are constantly harassing or nagging your child.
  • It is difficult to hold your ground and not give in simply to avoid arguments, tantrums or pouting. However, it is a necessary evil.
  • If you are starting it later than you should have – breaking your old habits is hard.

I offer this last bit of information in candor – I have made changes, sought help and believe I am doing the right things to help my anxious child.

This was not an exhaustive list of ways to help your anxious child by any means, but it is a good start. In future blog I will give further suggestions (and as I discover what works!).

Resumes

For this month’s blog I am going to revert back to some of my earlier blogs, and focus again on job searching. Specifically I am going to discuss ‘the resume’, and some tips or guidelines that you should follow when writing a resume. In my experience, I believe the two main objectives you need to focus on in a resume are:

 Does your resume clearly communicate that you meet the needs of the employer?

Think of a resume as an advertisement for a product, only this time the product is you, so positioning is everything. The person who receives your resume will scan it quickly to determine whether you can h

elp her company. Your job is to say quickly, clearly and loudly that you can! It is often easier to do this if there is a job ad posted, rather than if you are sending out resumes to employers at random. With a job ad, the needs of the employer are basically stated. That being said if there is a job ad for a customer service representative, it is worthwhile to do an internet search for “duties of a customer service representative”, and see what comes up. This is also what you would do if you are handing out, or dropping off resumes to companies or businesses who have not posted a job ad.

How do you include this information into your resume; that ties in to the second objective in your resume?

resume3

Is your resume easy to read?

At least 50% of the impact of your resume derives from design.  Simply stated, your resume needs to be easy to read – especially for entry level positions. This is achieved by using headings (Skills and Qualifications, Employment History, Education…) and bullets or point form information.

The skills and qualifications area is important; this is where you match your skills to the job you are seeking. For example in customer service you would want to state that you get along with people, enjoy helping others, can multitask, adapt to different situations and problem solve. Possess good communication, listening and time management skills; – if you so possess these skills. The best way to state these skills and qualities is in point or bulleted form.  Eg.

  • Strong problem solving and time management skills
  • A team player who works well with fellow workers
  • Excellent communication skills
  • A quick learner who is able to adapt to different situations…

What the bullets do is make your resume easier to read. This is important because employers often have a stack of resumes to go through when looking to hire. If your resume looks like a page from a novel, or is difficult to read, it may get eliminated before they even take a look at it. Sometimes less is more. The statements above, on their own, give information, but are more than that when tied with other parts of your resume. For example, if in your employment history section (or your volunteer experience section) you state that you worked as a bus person, waitress, cashier… it shows how these skills were developed. Even your education section shows that you can problem solve and can learn new things.

Therefore showing an employer that you meet their needs and qualifications in a simple, easy to read way, should be the basic model you remember when writing a resume.

Unidentified?

Many of the blogs that others have written have been about dealing with “identified” children or persons; but what about the “unidentified” child?  How about the child that falls through the cracks because he or she is not as disruptive as others in school?  Issues are not addressed by teachers because the child gets ‘okay’ grades.

This often leaves the parents dealing with all of the issues, and because nobody else has raised concern, the uneducated parent (in dealing with learning disabilities) may just think they have a sensitive child.

I am one of these parents, and until someone educated me, I tried (and often still try) to ease anxieties by avoiding situations that may cause anxiety. Unfortunately this often led to a child running a house. Something I did not even realize I was letting this happen. Decisions were made based on how my son would react, and whether I wanted to deal with the drama.

Anxiety-words

Add on top of that, parents who are divorced, and do not agree that outside help is needed. Getting my son the help that is needed has been difficult, but he is finally on a waiting list to get further assistance.

I have read many articles and attended seminars about learning disabilities, to try and educate myself. There are definitely anxiety issues, but I do not know if there is anything beyond that. Maybe it is just behavioural, because I feed into his anxiety, and allow him to manipulate me. At least I understand that I am allowing this, and am trying to change, but it is difficult to change a routine to which you have become accustomed (much like the dieter who cannot say no to doughnuts brought into work, or grabbing fast food for lunch because it is easier than taking the time to make something.) It is hard to see your child constantly unhappy, and not want to do something (or not make him do something), that may add to that unhappiness. It is heart wrenching to think that your decisions are the cause of your child’s grief or sorrow, but just as unhealthy to the child, to simply avoid situations that may cause stress or anxiety.

Since my son has yet to be diagnosed, I cannot say for sure that he suffers from an anxiety disorder. There may be more to it than anxiety. Or, as I hinted earlier, it may just be learned behaviour or maybe some combination of the above. Whatever the case, I feel that it is important to take the precautions necessary to help my son deal with life. I’ve been opposed to medication in the past, but can see that in many cases, it can help an individual calm down enough to learn the effective strategies necessary to cope with daily life and its ultimate turmoils.

An anxiety disorder can simply be stated as any worry that is out of control, and children with anxiety can appear oppositional or irritable because they are distracted by their worries. They can also be explosive, moody or tearful.

Here are some of the signs of anxiety disorder:

  • Insomniaanxiety
  • Reoccurring stomach aches, headaches
  • Shortness of breath, racing heart
  • Resistance to participating in social activities
  • Fear of deviating from a regular routine
  • Tantrums or moodiness right before a specific event
  • Exaggerated negative thoughts about future events
  • “Clinginess” – always wanting proximity to a parent
  • Whining/crying when uncomfortable with people, routines and/or situations

I offer the above list to other parents who may be dealing with these symptoms and not realize or understand that there may be an issue. I’m not necessarily saying that I want my child labeled, but I do want to give him every opportunity to succeed. I now realize that going the extra step to get professional help (which could even include medication) could quite possibly give him the extra edge he needs to be successful in life. 

Before You Look For Work

Before You Start to Look For Work

So far in my blogs I have talked about confidence and disclosure in relation to finding a job with a learning disability.  Today I am going to discuss preparing for job searching. Things you need to do and questions that you need to ask yourself and others; questions like:

What jobs would you like to do?reaching for the stars

What interests you about these jobs?

Who do you know that works in the industry/field?

What type of hours are you willing to work?

What type of jobs wouldn’t you like to do?

These questions may seem obvious, but every person looking for work should ask them. It may be more important for someone with a learning disability, simply because if they are doing something they like, or already have knowledge of, they may have coping mechanisms or personal accommodations already in place.

Another good thing to do, maybe simply for motivation, is to make a list of ‘5 reasons to get a job’, and since earning money would be at the top of that list, maybe you can make another list, or set of goals, ‘things I can do with my money’.

In a perfect world, that may be all you need to do to get a job, but jobs are not plentiful and there are other things that you need to take into consideration. There are barriers to getting any job, and you have to present yourself as a qualified, or ‘the best’ person for the job.  You have to think ahead, about how you can combat these barriers.

How to Overcome Barriers to Getting a Job

barriers 

BARRIER

POSITIVE

NEGATIVE

LACK OF WORK EXPERIENCE

Don’t take bad habits with you. You can be taught new skills. You might not like the job. Some employers need experience.

DISABILITY

Have understanding of individual needs and coping skills. May impact on my career choice.
LITTLE OR NO WORK HISTORY Come in fresh, able to learn tasks from the beginning. Employer may be suspicious of why someone has not worked


SELF ESTEEM
Remembering things in my earlier blog, it is important to be confident in yourself, so as you begin your job search it is important to state or restate this confidence by making a list.

WRITE FIVE GOOD THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF:

These are some of the things you should do, or need to take into account before searching for a job. There are numerous others that are suggested and still more that are needed, (e.g. a resume and cover letter) but knowing what type of work you would like to do, identifying and combating barriers to you working in that field are, and realizing and stating your strengths, are all important ways to finding employment in which you can succeed.