Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to End a Panic Attack While it is Happening

Prevention is the most important part to avoiding panic attacks but sometimes prevention isn’t enough.  Please note that panic attacks are surprisingly common. In my practice approximately 50% or more of my clients come in initially with panic attacks.  The following method has been shown to be very effective in managing and stopping panic attacks in the moment.

When you are having a panic attack you can follow these steps recommended by Pati McDermott, CHT (
The Four Steps:
It takes three minutes for your adrenal glands to fill your body with the adrenaline response. It also only takes three minutes for your body to stop the adrenaline reaction. If you stop a panic attack as soon as it starts, the reaction only has to last for three minutes.
1.     Relax.
2.     Stop Negative Thinking.
3.     Use Coping Statements.
4.     Accept Your Feelings.
Here's How:
Step 1. Relax.
Relax by taking slow, deep, complete breaths. Calm yourself by remembering that you are only having a panic attack and that nothing more serious is happening to you. Continue to take slow, deep, complete breaths. Slow, deep, complete breaths will relax your body, which is the first step to reversing the release of adrenaline.
Step 2. Stop Negative Thinking.
Stop negative thinking by shouting the word "STOP!!!" really loud inside your head. By shouting the word "STOP" you are interrupting the emergency message that your brain is sending to your adrenal glands. Often people having a panic attack get into an endless loop repeating the same catastrophic thoughts over and over in their head. Interrupting this endless loop gives you the opportunity to replace the scary message with a calming one.
Step 3. Use Coping Statements.
A coping statement is a positive statement that is at least as strong as the catastrophic statement that you have been scaring yourself with. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Choose a statement that addresses the negative thought.
For example, if you think that you are having a heart attack (a common fear during a panic attack) then you might be saying something in your head like, "Oh my God, I'm having a heart attack" or, "I'm gonna die, oh my God, I'm gonna die!" After you shout the word "STOP!" immediately replace the fear thought with a positive statement that helps you to cope with the situation, such as "I'm only having a panic attack and it will be over in three minutes if I relax" or, "My fear is making my heart pound harder, my heart is fine."
If you feel afraid hearing footsteps behind you on the street you might say, "I've walked down this street hundreds of times" or, "I walk alone on the street every night when I come home from work; what I hear behind me is someone else who is walking home from work."
Other coping statements might be, "I've gotten through this situation many times before and I can get through it again" or, "I am fine, everything is fine."
Brainstorm the kinds of fearful thoughts that bring on panic for you and then make a long list of coping statements that you can look at when you need to rather than trying to think of coping statements in the middle of a panic attack.
Note: If your fear is in response to a real danger I suggest that you consider making new choices that address those fears. If you are concerned about your health consult with your doctor.
Step 4. Accept Your Feelings.
Accepting your feelings is very important. Minimizing this experience usually serves to perpetuate it.
Start by identifying what emotion you are feeling. Most panic attacks are caused by the emotion of fear or some variation of fear. Identify the emotion you are feeling and find the reason that you feel it.
Validate that feeling and the reason for it. If you are having a panic attack before giving a speech, you are afraid because it's scary. Stage fright is a common cause of fear and panic. If you're afraid that you're having a heart attack, it's certainly valid to be afraid of that. If you are afraid of footsteps behind you on the street it's reasonable to be afraid that something bad might happen to you.
In all of these cases take the appropriate precautions. Have a regular check up so that you know that your heart is healthy. Walk in a well-lit area and be aware of your surroundings on the street. Walk like a warrior and not like a victim. These are all important precautions to ensure your safety. Then, when you use a coping statement that reminds you that you had a check up recently and that your heart is fine, you can reassure yourself that it's okay to be afraid, knowing that you are safe.
Fear is a positive emotion that reminds you to take care of yourself. Listen to your feelings, take good care of yourself, and keep your emotions in proportion to the situation by keeping an appropriate perspective.
Many people have stopped having panic attacks after learning these steps. However, there is a deeper solution to permanently resolving panic and anxiety responses, fully giving you emotional freedom and happiness. Your mind has the power to significantly influence your negative responses in all situations.
You can become the person that you choose to be.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Moms Can Do if Their Child Doesn't Have a Dad

We all know the research says kids are better off if they have a dad in their life but what happens if that is not an option for you!? Well good news, there are things moms can do to help bridge the gap.
  • Most of all- children need to know they are loved.
    • Protecting your child from feeling rejected by their father or you is important. If the rejection is too obvious to hide, making sure they know your love for them is unconditional is vital. The feeling of rejection leading to a negative self view of being unlovable or unworthy of love is worse than an absent father.  Also make sure they know they are not to blame for the absence.
  • Allow your child to talk about their emotions
    • Do not make your child feel like they cannot love or miss their father. It is important that you respect their emotions and that they have someone safe to talk to about them.  Provide opportunities like making a puzzle together, going for a walk or drive to help them open up.
  • Being a single parent is part of the reason no dad is a problem.
    • It isn’t hard just because dad is gone; it is also hard because now mom has to do it on her own. This often causes economic and emotional problems for mom. Moms make sure you take care of yourself as best as you can. Seek resources, get connected in a community and try and get as stable as you can. Being a single parent isn’t easy but there is help out there. If you are having a hard time finding resources talk to other single moms you know. Don’t be afraid to see a counselor to help deal with any anger, rejection, or stress you might be feeling yourself.
  • Try to parent like a guy and a girl.
    • Research shows men and woman tend to parent different. Women tend to be more nurturing and men tend to roughhouse more. Both are valuable to emotional and physical development.  Do your best to play catch, wrestle and kiss owies. If the kids have a healthy uncle or grandpa that can be a consistent part of their life, this can help as well. Bringing other unstable men in and out of their life can add more hurt and feelings of abandonment, so be careful not to expose them to new “friends” until you are sure it’s going to last. 
  • Divorce can leave different size scars depending on how you handle it.
    • Research considers divorce an emotional trauma for adults and children. The trauma can be huge or relatively small based on how the child perceives the situation. 
    • AHA Parenting says, "The real wounds come when a child feels rejected by one parent, forced to choose between parents, or when a stepparent introduces negativity toward the child. That's when the wound is serious, and the scar tissue extensive. Bottom line, if divorce is part of your life, you owe it to your child to do everything in your power to keep things amicable, which is a huge predictor for whether your ex will stay in your child's life in a positive way." 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Top 5 Reasons for Panic Attacks

  1. §  Emotional Stress. This is a common cause of anxiety attacks. Troubled relationships can often trigger emotional stress and lead to anxiety attacks if not managed.
  2. §  Stress at the work. Work can often put a lot of demands on your life. There can be high expectations, deadlines and difficult projects. Sometimes there are difficult people you work with. This can all cause stress leading to anxiety attacks.
  3. §  Fear of future events. Worrying about what will happen in the future is a big cause of anxiety attacks, maybe even the biggest. Sometimes it is general fears of the future and other times it is about a specific event. Some people spend hours obsessing about these topics and worry themselves into panic attacks.
  4. §  Previous life experiences. A traumatic past experience can cause a panic attack because a current life event can trigger feelings from the past.
  5. §  Hormonal imbalances can be a cause of anxiety attacks but can be easily cured by consulting a doctor.

What to do about Panic Attacks:

Below is a list of things you can to do to help with anxiety and panic attacks.
Spiritual Belief System
Regular exercise
Family and Friends
Expressing Yourself Creatively
Down Time/relaxation

Panic attacks are serious and can be very scary while you are having them.  Do not be afraid to seek help in managing your anxiety. You don’t have to live with panic attacks forever. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to Tell Children About Divorce

Telling your children about divorce can be very difficult and intimidating for parents. There are several important points you must make very clear to help avoid unnecessary trauma for your children.  

1. It is not their fault.
Children very commonly feel it is their fault when a parent or loved one divorces. No matter how naughty a child is, it is never their fault. Child can add stress but they can never cause a divorce.

2. Both parents still love them very much and that will never change.
A common fear that sets in for children is: “If mommy and daddy quit loving each other, then they can quit loving me”.  Face this head on. Make sure your children know there is nothing they can do to ever end your love for them!

3.  How you explain the reason for the divorce can be difficult but try very hard not to bad talk your spouse, even if they cheated on you or hurt you deeply. 
Here is excerpt from my book When Grandparents Divorce of the mom explaining to her children why Grandma and Grandpa are divorcing:
“Well, sometimes people try and try to get along and nothing works. No matter what they do, they can’t seem to solve their problems,” Mom answers.  “When this happens, some people choose to live in separate houses. This is called ‘divorce.’”

4. The children will need to know how the divorce affects them. So it is ideal if you know the plan before you talk to them. Letting them know they will be at mom’s one week and dad’s the next, or whatever their arrangement is going to be, will help them adjust. Anxiety can develop from waiting to find out.

5. Let your child know it is ok and normal to feel lots of emotions. Also let them know that it will not be so painful forever. With time it gets better and you will create a new normal.
Parents please note research considers divorce a trauma to children, and it takes time and support to heal from any trauma. Check in with your child to see how they are doing so they have the opportunity to talk about it.

6. Point out the positives like they will have two rooms, more toys and double the holidays to celebrate. If you know of friends of theirs whose parents are divorce also point that out to them, so they know they are not alone.

If you suspect your child is struggling with the divorce counseling can be very effective in helping them through the process. Divorce is the number one reason kids come to counseling in my private practice. Also please check out my recommended products for good children's books on divorce. Koko Bear It's Not Your Fault and Dinosaur Divorce are very good books to read with your children. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

What to Do If You Are Aware of Child Abuse

First lets define child abuse:

The child welfare information gateway defines it as such:
Physical abuse is nonaccidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child.2 Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child. 
Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be:
  • Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
  • Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)3
  • Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
  • Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
These situations do not always mean a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child's health or safety is at risk, then child welfare intervention may be required. In addition, many States provide an exception to the definition of neglect for parents who choose not to seek medical care for their children due to religious beliefs that may prohibit medical intervention.4 
Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.Sexual abuse is defined by CAPTA as "the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children." 
Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified. 
Abandonment is now defined in many States as a form of neglect. In general, a child is considered to be abandoned when the parent's identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time. 
Substance abuse is an element of the definition of child abuse or neglect in many States.5 Circumstances that are considered abuse or neglect in some States include:
  • Prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother's use of an illegal drug or other substance
  • Manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child
  • Selling, distributing, or giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child
  • Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child 

What to do if abuse is happening:

Now if this is happening to someone you know you must call child protective services. Each county has their own child protective services (this may vary in outside of the USA). Call the county that the child is being abused in. 

You will need to know:
  • The age of the child
  • The first and last name
  • The first and last name of the child’s abuser
  • The address of the child
  • What school the child goes to
  • Phone number of child’s parents
  • Date of abusive events

If you do not have all of this information, still call. Give them what you do know.  Also note that it is confidential when you report. No one will share who reported the abuse.

For my local readers, here is the contact info for child protective services in our local counties.

Outagamie County
Office Hours: 920-832-5161
After Hours: 920-832-4646

Calumet County
Office Hours: 920-849-1400
Office Hours Crisis: 920-849-9317
After Hours Crisis Lines: 920-849-9317 or 920-832-4646

Winnebago County
(920) 727-2882
(920) 729-2750

Waupaca County
Office Hours: 715-258-6300
After Hours: 715-258-4466

Shawano County
Office Hours: 715-526-4700
After Hours: 715-526-3111

To get more cps county info go to:

If you suspect child abuse please do not look the other way. Call child protective services. Many people do not know what to do so they do not call. Share this article so not knowing what to do is never an excuse to allow child abuse to continue! 

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