Book Review: ‘Pushing Through The Cracks: In the Darkness of Her Family’s Mental Illness She Found Light’- Emily J. Johnson by Eleanor

(image: Emily J Johnson)

Pushing Through The Cracks: In the Darkness of Her Family’s Mental Illness She Found Light by Emily J. Johnson is an incredible book. It is a story that I don’t believe has ever been written about before in such a way in the mental health space, I have certainly never come across it. Its a true memoir that occurred here in the UK during lockdown.

Emily wrote to me and kindly sent me a free copy of her book. I was hooked from the first page- this is a story of survival against the odds, of how mental illness can rip a family apart but how healing and hope are possible. Of strength through immense difficulty. Of light winning over darkness.

Four years ago, in the UK, Emily, a divorced mother of two, was living her best life with a new partner and blended family of six. But then addiction and mental illness entered her home uninvited, threatening to tear the whole family apart.

With an alcoholic husband and two teenage sons – one a depressed gambler and the other with chronic obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)– Emily is left to cope alone. And when the Covid pandemic hits, Emily, a ‘serial people-pleaser, enabler and born rescuer’, almost breaks too.

This true story delves into the darkest sides of mental illness and addiction with raw, often harrowing honesty. It shines a light on taboo subjects including self-harm, suicidal feelings, gambling, alcoholism, depression, severe OCD and eating disorders, all exacerbated by an unprecedented global pandemic and dwindling support services.

This is a story of remarkable strength, self-realisation and reclamation of a lost identity. This is a story of finding hope, pushing through the cracks in the darkness. It is also a story that touches on the difficulties of accessing UK NHS mental health services at times, especially CAMHS.

I found Emily’s strength through such severe adversity – dealing with a husband and two sons with severe mental illness, whilst carrying on with her own life when mental illness permeated every part, to be so inspiring. Her marriage falls apart, her children are unable to attend work and education, the family embarks on several different recovery journeys- navigating NHS mental health care and all its difficulties. Her sons addictions and acute OCD worsen and add to the pressures for Emily. How does she as a mother fix it all? She realises.. she can’t fix anyone and its not her job too.

The front cover features a dandelion pushing through the cracks of the ground. Emily describes the moment she hits rock bottom but then saw a dandelion poking through- which symbolised hope and light for her,

‘(image: Emily J. Johnson)

‘I pick up my phone and call a crisis support line…I desperately want someone to listen to me, to ease my pain, to hear my stories…(of mental illness at home)

I throw my phone across the path in frustration… something catches my eye, a beautiful yellow dandelion is growing through a crack in the concrete. Its golden yellow petals cut through the greyness of the broken path and it overshadows the filth and discarded cigarette butts around it. Despite its surroundings, it has found ways to push up through that crack, to have life. it is. not complaining or giving up, it’s surviving and it will go on to finish flowering. One day soon, the wind will carry its dainty seeds somewhere else to carry on the cycle of its life.

Just like that dandelion, I have pushed through adversity and survived. …I close my eyes and raise my face to the sunshine… Even in the midst of all this chaos, this darkness, there is warmth and light. There is hope.” (from chapter Dandelion) (Emily J. Johnson)

This is also a book which exposes the difficulties and realities of living with mental illness. I will add a trigger warning- it doesn’t hold back on the reality of mental illness including self harm, addiction, alcoholism, suicidal thoughts etc- so please read with care.

Thank you Emily for letting me read and follow the journey of your family. I hope your husband and sons are able to fully battle their demons and recover or stay in remission.

Pushing Through the Cracks by Emily J. Johnson can be bought from Amazon and good book shops.


(image: Emily J. Johnson)

Surviving Trauma Makes Relationships Difficult. Self Compassion Can Help: by Taylor Blanchard

(image: Unsplash)

You sabotage your relationships when things feel too calm.

You panic when your partner goes on a family vacation, believing that they’re leaving you forever.

Perhaps you can’t stand hugs or gentle touch.

Maybe you’ve wondered to yourself: “What in the world is wrong with me?! Am I just not cut out to have close friends or a romantic relationship?”

Actually, that’s not the case! You deserve close relationships– everyone does. If you resonate with these scenarios, though, you may have some unprocessed trauma– and that trauma may be making your relationships feel like a rusty, ungreased wheel.

You’re not alone. Here’s how trauma can blow our relationships off-course, and also, how self-compassion can help to ease that struggle.

Trauma Creates Hypervigilance

Trauma is any incident that overwhelms your ability to cope (abuse, neglect, or surviving a natural disaster, just to name a few examples). These abhorrent experiences cause our brains and bodies to swirl with cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

After a seriously traumatic event (or relationship or childhood), our cortisol levels don’t always return to baseline. Often, the nervous system creates a new baseline of heightened stress response. In short: you don’t go back to being as calm as you were before the storm. Now, you’re hypervigilant all the time. You’re always stressed, always scanning for the next attack.

Unfortunately, relationships can’t be created without vulnerability, and vulnerability can’t happen if you’re constantly scanning for attack.

You might be hypervigilant in your relationships if:

  • You feel uncomfortable, fidgety, and unsafe during social situations
  • You constantly micro-analyse everything other people say to make sure they’re not going to hurt you
  • You constantly micro-analyse everything you say to make sure you don’t say anything “wrong”

Aversion to Intimacy

Trauma, and the excess cortisol it triggers, also creates an aversion to physical closeness. When we’re stressed  (i.e., when our cortisol is on full blast), our nervous systems naturally resist being touched.

Do you find yourself shrinking away from hugs? Do you feel an urge to run away when someone gently touches your arm? That’s likely a trauma response.

Of course, if you’ve experienced assault or physical or sexual abuse, this is a double whammy. Since your trauma came from physical touch, your brain has registered any physical touch as dangerous– on top of your increased baseline level of cortisol. Of course you’d feel sick at the thought of a hug! If this sounds like you, go extra easy on yourself if you struggle with relationships; this struggle isn’t your fault.

So, This Sucks… How in the World Do I Heal?

Yes, it sounds bleak. If this is you, you may feel hopeless. I’m with you; I’ve been there. It’s not hopeless, though. This is healable.

Therapy: Do I Even Have to Say It?

Yes, healing this will probably require trauma-informed therapy. You’ll be surprised at how fast you can begin to shift once you see a therapist who validates your traumatic experiences.

Here’s a hint: Psychology Today’s find-a-therapist tool can help you easily find a trauma-informed therapist. (Make sure to select “trauma focused” under the “types of therapy” menu.)

Now That That’s Out of the Way: Self-Compassion Comes Next

I’m 100% serious when I tell you: you deserve to go easy on yourself.

I say this with firmness, and yet, I forget to go easy on myself most days. Regardless, it helps immensely to stop comparing your relationships to other people’s relationships (both friendships and romantic relationships!).

Yes, it may likely take you longer to learn how to develop lasting relationships, both friendly and intimate. It may seem unfair that making and keeping tons of friends, as well as a life partner, comes so easily to some, while you’re struggling to simply text one person back.

Know what? It is unfair. You shouldn’t have gone through the trauma that you went through. What this means, though, is that you can recognize that you face more relational setbacks than someone who didn’t suffer the same trauma as you did. You’re starting further behind with a ball and chain tied to both feet.

Thus: you can stop comparing, and you can stop feeling like you’re “behind” somehow. Always try to recognize even your tiniest victories, even and especially the challenges which seem “easy” to other people.

Wrapping Up

Relationships make our lives juicy and sparkly, and so, if trauma has impacted your ability to form relationships (I’m with you!), then you’re probably struggling.

Try your best to go easy on yourself. You’ve been through a slog of painful experiences that, unfortunately, can make life on Earth feel like walking straight uphill all the time. Therapy helps. Self-compassion helps.

And yes, I know it’s tiring, but there is help for you out there. Just keep going.


Taylor Blanchard is a freelance mental health and wellness writer for hire. Her lived experience and extensive knowledge on mental health, emotional wellness, and spirituality guide her to create deep, compassionate blog posts, which she hopes will help people to feel less alone in the world. Self-care for Taylor looks like staring at the sky, drinking cacao while listening to metal, or cuddling with her rescue Pitbull mix.

The Difference Between a Therapist and a Life Coach by Lizzie Weakley.

(image: Pexels: Anthony Shkraba)

When you need help solving complex problems in your life, you turn to those who are considered to be “experts”. In this case, that may mean working with either a therapist or perhaps a life coach, which is an option gaining in popularity with more and more people. While working with either of these will be similar in many ways, there are distinct differences between a therapist and a life coach.

Licensing and Credentials

To begin with, major differences exist in terms of credentials and licensing. A life coach may have a college university degree in psychology or counselling and have many years of experience working with clients but is not a qualified therapist. On the other hand, a therapist is required in most cases to not only possess graduate-level training, but also be properly licensed where they practice.

Past or Future

When you work with a therapist, the focus usually is on past traumas that are impacting your current life, such as being abused when you were a child. But when you work with a life coach, these sessions often pinpoint specific problems that are happening right now that are impeding your ability to move forward. For example, you may work with a life coach to discover a new type of career you would find more fulfilling.

Long-Term or Short-Term

When most people begin visiting a therapist, they may continue to do so for many years, or in some cases forever. However, personal life coaching is more of a short-term commitment. In fact, the goal of the life coach is to give you the tools and skills needed to eventually coach yourself, but some therapies also aim to do this too.

Structured or Unstructured

While you may have thought therapy sessions are very structured, they are typically quite the opposite. In fact, therapy sessions are guided by the patient and the type of therapy is used to treat them. While a personal life coaching session has the coach, and you, working on developing goal-oriented strategies that let you experience personal and even professional growth along the way.

In conclusion, depending on your situation, it is always possible you may at some point in your life work with both a therapist and life coach. Whether you have sessions with a therapist to work through unresolved childhood trauma or seek out a life coach to help you achieve a better balance between your personal and professional lives, you will soon learn why these professionals and their services are so valuable to clients.

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio.

Treatment Options for Recovering from an Eating Disorder by Kara Masterson

(image: Pexels)

Treatment for an eating disorder depends on the type of disorder you are suffering from (such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder) and can vary with each individual. In most cases, treatment will include therapy, education about nutrition, and monitoring. There may also be medications prescribed that can help address a disorder as well as treatment for any health concerns that may have been caused by the disorder. 

Therapy for Eating Disorders 

The first step in treating an eating disorder is therapy sessions that may last just a few weeks or many years, depending on the severity of your illness. Therapy is designed to help you develop a good eating pattern and exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones. Therapy will also help you understand how eating is connected to your mood as well as how to cope with stressful situations. You will be given the chance to develop problem-solving skills that are more constructive and that can better serve you going forward.

There are three types of therapy used to treat eating disorders and you may enter one, two, or all three of these types to manage your disorder. They include: 

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy – this therapy focuses on behaviour, thoughts, and feelings as well as how to recognise and change distorted thoughts 
  • Family therapy – this therapy is designed to help your family help you establish healthy eating patterns as well as how to cope with a loved one who is living with an eating disorder 
  • Group cognitive-behavioural therapy – therapy conducted with others who are dealing with the same type of eating disorder in order to address thoughts, feelings, and behaviours 

Nutrition Program 

Another part of your therapy will include a nutrition program. You may work with a registered dietitian or other nutritional experts to help you better understand your disorder. They will create a program designed to help you work toward a healthy weight, practice meal planning, and take steps to avoid dieting or binge eating. As part of the treatment options for eating disorders, they will also help you recognise how your eating disorder negatively impacts your nutrition and health while helping you establish a realistic eating pattern you’ll be able to follow. 

Eating Disorder Medications 

There is no medication that can cure an eating disorder, but there are medications that are used in conjunction with therapy that may lead to better success. Antidepressants are the most commonly used, especially if your eating disorder includes binge eating or purging. Another drug that is sometimes used for binge eating disorders is Vyvanse which is thought to help impulsive behaviours that can lead to bingeing. 

Suffering from an eating disorder can be debilitating and it is an illness that is not only difficult for the person suffering from but also their loved ones who feel helpless. There are treatments available and it is critical that you get help for your eating disorder as soon as possible- reach out for support.

This article was written by freelance writer Kara Masterson

Being Self Compassionate when I have Anxiety (a List) by Eleanor

(image: Unsplash)

I think that I put a lot of pressure on myself to be doing and achieving and living my best life. The truth is that this sometimes leads to overwhelm. I often try to run before I can walk as I am the eternal optimist… and then on the day anxiety (panic) takes over and I can’t do things.

This week though I have had extra pressures. I have had to deal with some medical things like my blood test for lithium (which I struggle to get to the surgery for), a potential job interview and my fears around social anxiety. Needless to say i have felt panicked and have had to self soothe, be kind to me and really look after myself. I am also working with an EMDR therapist.

So I thought I would create a list of things that I and you can do to be kind to ourselves! (inspired by googling and things that help me). Feel free to add in the comments!

  1. Call a good friend and have a natter- always good to speak to those who love you for you non judgementally and don’t mind if you’re not having the best day.

2. Have a warm bubble bath or shower with your favourite shower gel/ bubble bath/ bath treats. I am a big fan of bath bombs. Theres something super relaxing about them and you’re taking care of yourself too! I love things with cosy vanilla scents personally.

3. Do not be hard on yourself or criticise yourself. Bad mental health is not your fault and tomorrow can always be a better day.

4. Talk compassionately to yourself if your anxiety is overwhelming. Do what you need to self soothe and look after yourself.

5. Make sure you get enough rest- its OK to curl up with a blanket and Netflix for a bit, or read a good book. making art can also be healing too.

6. Accept the way you are feeling and seek support from a trusted therapist, friend or family member. You are OK as you are. You just may need help to recover.

7. Cuddle a pet. I have two very sweet guineapigs who give wonderful cuddles.

8. Listen to soothing music- that you love..

9. Remember to be kind to yourself, look after your wellbeing if you are low or anxious.

10. Call a support line if you are in crisis– such as Samaritans 116 123

Love,

Eleanor

x

How to help others with their Mental Health when you live with it yourself.

(image: Pexels)

Dealing with mental health problems is tough, especially when there is a stigma. ”Man up? Why don’t you man up?!” (you don’t need to). However, you get to a point where you strike a balance that lets you lead a healthy and productive lifestyle. You’re on an even keel, which is essential as it stops the intense emotions and feelings.

Still, this isn’t the end of your journey. Once you get to a point where you feel you are on top of things, you might want to help others reach the same summit. After all, there’s no greater sensation than giving back. Here’s what you need to do.

Reach Out

You understand the warning signs better than anybody because you’ve been through the ordeal. You also know that people who are finding life difficult tend to bottle up their emotions and push them deep down. As a result, the likelihood of a fellow sufferer reaching out isn’t realistic. Instead, they’ll suffer in silence. Reaching out can be as basic as asking them if they are okay, or letting them know that they have a shoulder to lean on if they want. And, with the development of tech such as Zoom, you don’t have to be in the same room to eliminate loneliness or anxiety.

Share Your Story

Be honest – did you open up to anyone who asked about your issues? No, because it’s tough when there isn’t a sense of empathy. People who haven’t experienced what it’s like don’t understand, making it hard to relate to the pain. You’re different. Having dealt with it, you are better positioned than anyone to offer advice. Of course, they don’t know that until you share your story. Revealing what you went through will encourage them to trust you, ensuring your advice doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Make It Your Career

If you love helping others and have a passion for mental health, you should consider turning it into a career. Your experience makes you well placed to get to grips with the complexities of the industry, and the advancements in technology mean it’s easier than ever to become certified. Becoming a counsellor is never a walk in the park, but some features make it simpler to juggle. For example, attending an online course instead of being on-campus. Or, doing it part-time to ensure it doesn’t overwhelm you and get in the way of your routine. You’ve got something to offer, so don’t be afraid to show it!

Be Flexible

Due to your success story, you will want everyone to try the method you used because it has had positive results. That’s perfectly acceptable since people draw on their experiences when helping others. However, no two individuals are the same, which means you must be flexible when providing your opinions. Sure, you can lead with what assisted you, yet it’s essential to keep an open mind and encourage whatever makes them happy. Also, never guarantee anything as there are no sure things with mental health.

It’s a process, an unpredictable one with lots of twists and turns, so you need to be prepared for ups and downs.



This article was written by a freelance writer
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Mental Health Tips to get you through Coronavirus Lockdown: Guest blog by Chantal Shaw

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(image: Self Care Pursuit)

If you’re stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak and need some tips to help with your mental health, you have come to the right place.

Being on lockdown can make us all feel depressed and more anxious. Self care for ourselves and our families are more important than ever.

Here are some suggestions of things to do to help your mental health and self care at the moment:

– Follow an exercise video- Listen to guided relaxation (I recommend channels ‘Relax for a while’ and ‘Michael Sealey’ on Youtube).

– Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal- this helps to clear your mind.

– Nourish your body with healthy food and stay hydrated, so important to get help with groceries if possible and drink lots of water.

– Have a bath to help relax you and keep you feeling good.

– Watch stand up comedy on Netflix, Amazon Prime or on TV. 

– Do a puzzle, if you enjoy them.

– Play a board or card game.

– Limit your exposure to the news to once a day if you are able to stop anxious thoughts. 

– Bake/ cook – good for being mindful and creating something delicious, with a sense of achievement.

– Read a book and let your mind imagine.

– Go for a walk in nature (responsibly and if your country’s guidelines allow you to!).

– When you get up- make your bed and don’t stay in pyjamas all day, to get you into a good routine and positive mindset.

– Have a phone or zoom chat with positive influences in your life.

– Tidy your home as best you can.

– Play upbeat music (and dance or sing).

– A few drops of pure lavender oil in your bath or a lavender pillow spray to help you fall off to sleep and help reduce anxiety.

– Learn a new skill- many online courses are being offered.

– Break down the tasks that are overwhelming you in to small achievable chunks.

 

If you are having persistent overwhelming negative thoughts or feelings please tell someone- speak to a trusted friend or family member, your GP, the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK- you can also email them if you prefer), a counsellor.

Things can and will get better.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, look after it.

 

Chantal Shaw is a guest writer from the UK and the sister of our founder Eleanor.

5 Ways Therapy Can Heal your Family: Guest blog by Samantha Higgins

5 Ways Therapy Can Heal Your Family (1)

Therapy can be very helpful for families, and your family could benefit from therapy, too. Professional counselling is a proven method to help with all kinds of issues impacting families, and any issues plaguing your family could also be addressed.

To help you pinpoint just how therapy could help your family, you should look into the various situations where therapy might be useful. In particular, you should consider these five ways therapy can heal your family.

1. When Having Marital Issues

You can get assistance with all types of marriage issues when you get help from a therapist. If you have entered a new marriage, you can learn how to adjust to the roles that come along with that. If your marriage is on the rocks, you can get assistance, too.

If cheating has become an issue and you need an infidelity therapist, professional help is without a doubt a good idea. Therapy can help you deal with all of the emotions, assist you with any grieving, and provide guidance on how to move forward.

2. Dealing with the Loss of Loved Ones

The loss of loved ones can impact your family to the point where professional help is needed. If your family has lost someone, you can have short-term effects and long-term effects. When your family loses a loved one, you always run the risk of issues developing further. This is especially the case if it was your family member who died.

You will not be the only one to benefit from help. Children can learn to grieve and deal with the new family structure. Parents can learn how to better take on leading a home by themselves, and other family members can sound off and get feedback, too. Often a loss of a loved one requires people to take on new roles and responsibilities. Therapy can help your family if dealing with those situations.

3. Help with Children with Behavioural difficulties

If you have a child or children that are struggling with poor behaviour, you should consider therapy. Not only can bad behaviors be stopped and corrected, but they can also be prevented from impacting your family in the future.

Your children will be assessed by a therapist and reasons for their behaviour can be identified. Then, your family can heal. You all will be able to prevent more poor decisions from taking place, and you will have all kinds of resources to make sure this happens.

4. New Family Dynamics

If you have introduced a new dynamic to your family eg a blended or step family or new sibling or spouse, you might need some professional help. Failure to make sure there is a smooth transition could have horrible consequences for you. You run the risk of family members feeling lost in the new dynamic. 

Whether you have a new spouse or a new child, these changes could cause issues for your family. Seek out professional services through therapy to mitigate issues from harming those you love. Your family can morph into the new family you know it is capable of becoming. You all deserve this.

5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Substance abuse and mental health are issues that definitely warrant therapy at times. Both of these issues can ruin your family’s well-being. If you are dealing with substance abuse or mental health matters impacting your family, you do have options for help. Therapy will help you unlock those options.

Did you know that around 20 million Americans deal with addiction issues? And did you know that almost 44 million Americans deal with mental health issues? If you and your family are dealing with either or both of these problems, you are not alone whether you live in the USA or not. You should consider turning to therapy to help your family overcome these issues.

Your Family Can Indeed Heal

If any of the five issues above touch close to home for you, you have a way out. You do not have to let these issues tear apart your family that you love. Your family does not have to hurt so much anymore.

Each of the aforementioned five areas can be assessed, addressed, and improved when problems are there for your family. There is hope for your family with therapy, and your family absolutely can heal.

 

This blog was written by freelance writer Samantha Higgins.

 

We are 4! On Be Ur Own Light’s Fourth Blog Anniversary by Eleanor

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Its Today- 1st March 2020 and Be Ur Own Light is 4 years old! (cue the streamers!)

I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions dealing with my bipolar and anxiety. The blog started as a way to tell my friends and family how I was feeling and has evolved into working with guest bloggers and now brands/ partners on sponsored wellness posts too! Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on  a journey that I could not have imagined.

In November 2019, I published my first book Bring me to Light with Trigger Publishing which is the book of my life story with bipolar disorder, anxiety and my life in general (travelling, going to drama school, starting a career as a writer). The blog has also grown so much this year and is currently nominated in the Mental Health Blog Awards for Blogger of the Year, thank you to our nominee!

Additionally, Vuelio awarded us as a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog for the second year running and interviewed me (Eleanor) about working as a blogger!  Thanks also to Feedspot.com and My Therapy App for listing us in their mental health blog lists too for social anxiety and bipolar!

This year, I have written about World Bipolar Day for the Centre of Mental Health, about my search for EMDR therapy on the NHS, living with depression in winter, about writing my book and new life changes (getting married) and 2020 new year round up with hopes for the future. We also promoted mental health campaigns such as Shout UK text line (founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan),  Christmas 4 CAMHS, Time to Talk Day and Mental Health Awareness Week. Additionally, I spoke in Essex with my Dad about our joint story with bipolar for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat and we also spoke at Limmud Conference in Birmingham!

This winter I did some interviews for the book which can be seen on the Book tab above and also received some lovely reviews. It was amazing to appear in Happiful Magazine’s bonus wellness Mag this January (edited by campaigner Natasha Devon) and to write for Glamour and Bipolar UK. I also enjoyed being interviewed for the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle! Hopefully at some point I will do podcasts about it too and more interviews.

From March 2019-2020, the blog has attracted wonderful and talented guest bloggers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness.

We have also worked with the following brands on sponsored and gifted posts and hope to work with many more this next year :  YuLife, Nutra Tea, Essential Olie, Loveitcoverit on mental health apps, I-sopod floatation tanks, Core Wellness Maryland, Wellbeing Escapes Holidays.

My guest bloggers have written about their recovery and living with mental illnesses, as well as advice on how to improve your mental health. There a posts for whether you are going through a divorce, a bereavement, are stressed or have anxiety. We also had posts with people’s first hand experiences of mental illness including a brave post about being a sibling of someone with mental illness and one of living with an eating disorder. Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.

We have also covered new books coming out, a mental health fashion brand and a song about social anxiety, as well as posts about different therapies to help you.

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Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers (non sponsored) March 2019-2020 for your fantastic content:   

Ashley Smith- How Massage Therapy helps Anxiety Disorders

Emily Bartels- 5 tips for a mental health emergency plan

Dale Vernor- Understanding PTSD by Gender 

Tan at Booknerd Tan- How audio books and walking has helped anxiety

Emma Sturgis- Loving yourself, tips for a body positive life

EM Training Solutions- How to maintain mental health at work

David Morin- On social anxiety and talking to others

Lyle Murphy- How equine therapy can help those with mental health issues

Charlie Waller Memorial Trust- Best of Musicals event

A Time to Change Hypnotherapy-  Hypnotherapy for self esteem

Nu View Treatment Center- The connection between anxiety and substance abuse

Shout UK- Royal family launches mental health text line

Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Awareness Week  May 2019 Body Image

Emerson Blake- Coping with the stress of becoming a single parent

The Worsley Centre- A guide to therapies and finding the right one for you

Byron Donovan at Grey Matter – How I recovered from depression to form a fashion brand 

Luci Larkin at Wooley and Co Law- How to reduce stress and maintain mental health during a divorce

Nat Juchems- How to keep your loved ones memory alive after bereavement

Emily Ilett- on her book ‘The Girl who Lost her Shadow’

Mark Simmonds- an interview about his book ‘Breakdown and Repair’ with Trigger Publishing

Curtis Dean- 5 facts about music for stress relief

Robert Tropp- How quitting illegal drugs helps anxiety in the long term

Aaron James- the difference between psychotherapy and counselling

Dr Justine Curry- 4 ways to help a friend with bipolar disorder

Christmas 4 CAMHS campaign for children in childrens mental health wards

Ani O- 4 ways to ease the fear of doctors appointments

Katherine Myers- Ways that spending time outdoors can improve your mental health

Anita- 5 ways to lift you out the slump of seasonal depression

Chloe Walker- taking care of your child’s mental health

CBT Toronto- how to deal with social anxiety and depression

Katy- a true story with anorexia and OCD

Vanessa Hill- Life changing habits to bring into the new year

Rachel Leycroft- Expressing social anxiety through songwriting

Shira- Living with a sibling with mental illness: the meaning of normal

Capillus- 10 signs you may have an anxiety disorder

Brooke Chaplan- When therapy isn’t enough 

Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 

Mike Segall- Time to Talk Day- 9 years undiagnosed, my story with bipolar disorder

Jasveer Atwal- Living with PCOS and managing mental health

Leigh Adley at Set Your Mind Free- How CBT helps children with anxiety

Lizzie Weakley- How to heal and move forward when you have an eating disorder

Sofie- Living with an eating disorder

Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2020-21 brings for the blog!

Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.

Heres to a 2020 of positive mental health, of fighting the stigma against mental illness and creating a positive and supportive community here. 

Happy 4th birthday Be Ur Own Light!  ❤ May this be an enlightening year of growth for us.

 

Love and Light always,

Eleanor    

xxx

How CBT helps Children deal with Anxiety: Guest blog by Leigh Adley, therapist at Set Your Mind Free

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(image: Pinterest)

As we know, children are also vulnerable to anxiety. Unfortunately, many parents believe that this type of mental health problem will only be temporary in nature. For example, they may think that their child’s shyness will disappear as they grow older. However, if this shyness is increasingly interfering with the child’s life as well as their family’s, then obtaining help is of paramount importance. If left untreated, a child’s severe anxiety will in all likelihood deteriorate as they will choose to avoid situations that make them anxious.   

People suffering from anxiety, including children, are often treated with medication, particularly antidepressants. However, there are alternatives available, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help children deal with stress.  

Two decades of research has shown that CBT has been successful in reducing the symptoms of severe anxiety. This therapy also provides children with the tools to identify situations that trigger their anxiety. It also helps them manage the symptoms themselves.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help people manage their way of thinking and feeling. For example, it can help change distorted thoughts and dysfunctional behavior in order to alter an individual’s emotions. For children, therapists will often focus on getting them to unlearn their undesirable behaviour.     

 

Exposure and response prevention

This is the technique most therapists use for children with anxiety. It is a basic idea whereby a child is exposed to the situations that make them anxious. However, this exposure is structured and incremental and takes place in a safe environment. The goal is to make them accustomed to the triggers so their anxiety response is reduced. 

Exposure therapy has little in common with traditional talking therapy. CBT sessions generally involve talking to the patient to explore the root causes of their anxiety, and they then use this knowledge to alter their behaviour. Once they modify or change their response, the fear also disappears.

Exposure therapy is used for various types of anxiety, such as:

 

Treating anxiety as a person

It is helpful to go to a cognitive behavioral therapist as they will enable a child and their parents to think of the anxiety as an entity that is separate from their identity. The child may consider his or her anxiety to be a bully. To treat the anxiety as a person, the patient may give this bully a name, such as ‘Bossy’. Once the anxiety has been given a form, the CBT therapist can then teach the child how to control this ‘bully’. 

Children are also taught to recognize that anxiety can negatively affect their lives. By letting their fears control them, they miss important events such as:    

  • Sleeping in their own bed
  • Visiting their friends’ homes or going to a restaurant
  • Sharing meals with family or friends

It is also essential that the therapist gains the child’s trust so they can encourage them to face their fears.

 

Steps involved in exposure therapy 

The CBT therapist will firstly identify the triggers. The child will then confront a “pyramid of fears”, namely a sequence of incremental challenges. Every test that the child successfully accomplishes will help build their tolerance to the anxiety.

Before taking the challenges, the child will be asked to consider the degree of difficulty when encountering an uncomfortable situation. For example, a child who is afraid of touching dirt will be asked how difficult it would be (on a scale of 1–10) to write the word ‘dirt’. If they say ‘3’, then saying ‘I will touch dirt today’ could be a ‘5’, seeing a cartoon where a character picks up dirt may merit a ‘7’ and seeing an actual person touch dirt may go up to a ‘9’ on their difficulty scale.

By letting the child rate the scale of difficulty for their various fears, they can distinguish between the easy and extreme levels.

The first exposure trigger should come in its mildest form until the child’s anxiousness subsides. Fear is similar to any sensation; it decreases over time and the child will soon gain some control as the anxiety they feel goes away.

Depending on the severity of the child’s anxiety, a CBT session can take place several times a week, lasting several hours. The exposure often takes place in the CBT office, and then once the child feels comfortable, in an outside environment. For example, children with social anxiety may go outside wearing a funny hat. If they are afraid of germs, the exposure may involve:

  • Riding a bus or train
  • Shaking hands with strangers
  • Eating food without washing their hands

Once they have undergone several vulnerable situations and are feeling more confident, they can try some of the exposure sessions on their own. Parents have a vital role to play in this process. They should encourage their child to tolerate their anxious feelings rather than shielding them.

 

Duration of CBT sessions

It can take 8 to 12 sessions for a child to handle mild to moderate levels of anxiety. In addition, medication can help them reduce their stress while enabling them to engage in the CBT sessions.

 

Conclusion

CBT is a good way of helping children deal with their anxiety. CBT utilises various methods to overcome anxiety, and the exposure and response prevention techniques are particularly suitable for children. The child will confront their fears in increments until they can handle the stress on their own.

However, both the child and their parents need to understand that exposure therapy can be difficult. Nevertheless, once their fears diminish, the family can participate in activities that they previously found difficult.  

 

Author’s bio:

This blog was written by Leigh Adley, Hypnotherapist/Psychotherapist at Set Your Mind Free, based in the UK.