Do you know how to identify signs of mental distress in young ones? Are there natural methods that can support mental health? Children and teens truly need help with their mental help now more than ever. Julie and Dr. Roseann will be answering these questions and sharing some very timely information on the serious subject of mental health.
When studying the brain and looking at research, it is quite clear that natural methods are highly effective in supporting mental health. Dr. Roseann shares that in 2020, 1 in 6 adults in America are on psychiatric medication. Mental health issues are only getting worse; American psych studies found that in 2020, there is was a 20% increase in mental health issues from 2019. A pill will not fix your problem most of your time, you will need to do work by making changes in your behavior and you can do it! It will be ok. You can reach out and find out what your options are that are healthier for you. The nervous system can be stress activated and you cannot heal with that. Nowadays, everyone is running in a high stress level and most tend to not even notice it because it has become the “norm”. A lot of people engage the amygdala stress system; they do a breakdown of these systems without realizing what is going on and wake up anxious. What is the neuroscience behind all this stress?
First, Dr.Ro shares that your body has no idea of the difference between good stress and bad stress. This applies for adults as well as kids. If it appears your kids are anxious, it is most likely from a stress hyper-activated nervous system. A lot of people have done cool things this year while a lot of people are struggling, and your nervous system is going to react the same way in both situations. Right now, we are living a life in overdrive. But do not fear, we can do a lot to regulate our nervous systems and stress to live a better-quality life on the day to day! It is common when your nervous system is overextended, stressed, or excited, that it will get out of whack and often, a pill can over exasperate or bring on other symptoms. It all starts with how you manage stress. Just remember that if you are in a crisis, it is obvious your treatment will look different.
What are the brains of young ones like? Julie shares that when dealing with young ones, we are dealing with brains that are not fully developed yet. Their neurons and neuro pathways are not fully engaged, and the prefrontal cortex is not developed fully yet. Since their neurons are not completely protected, you really want to evaluate what the pros and cons are of handing your children medication. Our brains are still developing into the mid to late 20s of age. Knowing this means that we have such a window of opportunity to do things to really help their developing brains in so many ways! Keep in mind, you are not a horrible person if your kids are medicated. It is plainly important for people to know there are highly effective evidence-based alternatives to medication.
What is the difference between stress and anxiety and what are signs of anxiety in young ones? Stress is normal and we have a lot of stressors. Anxiety is commonly the result of long-term stress and sometimes genetics and life events that happen. Simply put, anxiety is a clinical condition and stress is a normal response. Dr. Ro shares that kids of all ages including teenagers and young adults show you what is going on with them, instead of telling you. You will most likely see somatic issues in them. This means you may see bowel, bladder issues, headaches as well as stomach aches. Another other classic way of seeing anxiety in young ones is if they are withdrawing or highly emotional. On the other side, you will see more anger and frustration in them. Kids showing signs behaviorally long before they fall apart completely is the most common way that we see stress in them.
What are some of the things that you can do when you notice these signs and symptoms in your kids, such as not sleeping well, being anxious, angry, or withdrawing? What can a parent do to help their children in this situation? First, try to keep in mind that these are hard times. Parents are overwhelmed and it is natural. Let us put our own oxygen mask on by starting with self-care. Why is this so important? Obviously, when we are better taken care of and regulated ourselves, we show it better in our lives and we are healthier. This makes it easier to manage our stress, as well as our children’s stress. We are better able to deal with challenges and we can role model great ways to manage stress and coping. Our kids learn by watching, not by listening. Kids need to see actions behind things to build new learning which is important! Dr.Roseann talks about her protocol called the REPS protocol and every component has something we are capable of doing. This entails breathing, envisioning positivity and managing stress. Breathing is the quickest way to regulate our nervous systems! 4-7-8 breathe, breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. She mentions how rhythmic breathing calms down the nervous system. She suggests teaching your kids to tolerate stress and build resilience to problem solving which is absolutely a component in lifetime happiness. Build coping skills! If you start these things young and your kids are regulated, they can speak up and use their words since they have learned to connect to their bodies! Envision success and positivity and shift your brain to see solutions. We can practice with our kids by making positive statements and breaking negative self-talk. Try to do these things every day to see results. You can also try yoga, meditating, journaling, etc. Put your energy to these types of things and they work! Julie shares that your brain listens to what you are saying in your mind, so be careful what you are thinking in your mind! To manage stress all within a couple minutes, you can breathe deeply and envision what is really going on. By starting small, such as doing 10 minutes of breath work every day, your brain and body will be happier, and you will feel calmer and more alert which will make each next step easier to do. You can take control of your thought process. Be realistic, try to not expect perfection. This is an ongoing evolutionary process; know that your brain and nervous system will benefit from this.
We can find help to build resilience and coping skills in our children on teletherapytoolkit.com where we can find a list of coping systems. Dr. Ro mentions that kids are much less resilient, and that a resiliency mindset involves 3 steps. Those 3 steps are how you view, manage, and recover from stress. When we regulate and calm nervous systems, we will not view stressors same way. Let nervous systems do what it is supposed to do. Again, it is the little things that create big waves! When you shift how you work with kids or teach them how to problem solve in the moment, that is where the magic is! Discipline is learning, not punishment. Coping statements really help kids. These little shifts teach you how to manage and validate stress and problem solve. Taking these tips and applying them can help improve our children’s mental health whether they are currently struggling, or we want to manage future situations!
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Written by Rebecca Younger | Staff blog writer