Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
In our family, anxiety manifested itself by disrupting sleeping and eating patterns. We learned that falling asleep about 20 minutes after your head hits the pillow is a healthy goal for everyone. If you are not getting an adequate amount of sleep, you will not be as successful when dealing with stress and anxiety. Here are some suggestions that may help when anxiety is causing a disruption in sleep patterns:
- Use a white noise machine. It helps drown out the sounds that prevent you from falling asleep or those that wake you from your sleep.
- Avoid caffeine for four to six hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake. It can be found in coffee, tea, chocolate, soda, and some pain relievers.
- No screen time two to three hours before bedtime. Our computers and other personal electronic devices emit blue light which is stimulating and not conducive to a good night's sleep.
- Sleep in a dark room. Use a red night light which has been found to have the smallest effect on mood.
- Be active during the day. Get some exercise, outdoors if able, to increase your exposure to natural light.
As I mentioned in the previous post, dear friends of ours referred us to a child psychologist practicing at a Christian counseling center that focuses on healing the mind, body, and spirit through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
"The central premise of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is that thought patterns and beliefs, emotional state, and behavior are all interconnected...How individuals perceive a situation and interpret it often determines how they feel and what they do...Research has shown that the perceptions and interpretations of depressed persons are usually not accurate (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979; Beck, 2005) and can initiate a vicious cycle. Those who are depressed have a greater tendency to engage in “cognitive errors,” such as jumping to conclusions, using a negative mental filter, all-or-nothing thinking, or catastrophizing. CBT teaches individuals to identify, challenge, and replace maladaptive thoughts and distorted thinking styles with healthy thoughts and behaviors... Religiously integrated CBT adheres to the same principles and style of conventional CBT and uses many of the same tools. What is unique to religiously integrated CBT is the explicit use of the client’s own religious tradition as a major foundation to identify and replace unhelpful thoughts and behaviors to reduce depressive symptoms. "While our family was dealing with anxiety and not depression, the treatment plan followed these same principles. Since we are followers of Jesus, and we chose to attend a Christian-based counseling center, the Bible served as our source of truth. I borrowed the following information from handouts we were given by the psychologist during our sessions. I will cite the sources if provided.
BE CALM: This is an acronym based on key principles from the Spiritual-Cognitive-Behavioral perspective. In this post, I will focus on the "B" and "C," leaving the rest to the professionals. These were the first tools taught to us, and they seem to be the tools we initially try when we become anxious.
B: Breathing--In the midst of our worries, we feel out of control. This breathing exercise helps us control our feelings when we begin to feel anxious.
- Inhale slowly five times through your nose.
- Exhale slowly out your mouth. Pretend to blow out candles. Children can even hold up five fingers, lowering them as the breaths are completed. Remember the exhalation is longer than the inhalation.
C: Call on God--prayer.
- Be specific. How do you want or need God's help in that particular situation?
- When we believe God is there and that He's all-powerful, and we choose to turn to him with our troubles, we build our relationship with Him.
A: ANTS--another acronym I will leave for the professionals.
Lastly, I will discuss the idea of journaling. According to one of our handouts, "research has found that people who journal during challenging circumstances have less depression, stress, and anxiety as well as better immune systems."
- Others should not read your journal entries unless you decide to share them. Some people write in a notebook or keep their journals in a special folder or binder. You may even wish to save your journal in a file on your computer or other personal electronic device. Consider creating a password to protect this file. A child may feel more comfortable knowing he or she is the only one who knows the password. (In Microsoft Word, typically go to Save As, then Tools, then Save Options to find how to password protect your file).
- Journal at least three times a week for 15 minutes. Reflect on the day and write down your thoughts as they come to mind.
- Don't worry about punctuation or grammar.
A friend of ours implemented a journaling technique with her daughter, and they found it worked quite well for them. The daughter seemed to enjoy having this special secret with her mom.
- Explain to your child that you'd like to get a special journal to use so the two of you can have private conversations through your journal entries.
- If the child agrees, go to the store together and purchase a journal.
- Agree on a hiding spot for the journal so the conversation remains private.
- Write the first entry. You could share something you are thankful for or something that made you happy during the day. Keep it fun and light at first. Be willing to share when something doesn't go quite right during your day, but use caution, being sensitive to your child's fears and worries.
- Return the journal to its hiding spot and make a mental note to check back the next day for your child's response.
Unfortunately I know what it's like to feel helpless when loved ones are hurting. There was a point when I was willing to try anything to comfort our daughters. If struggles are interfering with daily life, I strongly suggest making a sacrifice by reaching out to professionals for help. In the meantime, I hope those of you in similar situations can implement these tools when faced with stressful situations or teach them to your loved ones when they become anxious. It truly does help. Blessings to you, and thank you for reading.