Month: September 2014

Four Insomnia Therapy Techniques that Could Get You Some Sleep

Most adults have experienced insomnia at one time or another in their lives.  There are three kinds of insomnia – transient that lasts less than a week, short term that generally lasts one to three weeks, and chronic that lasts longer than three weeks.  Insomnia is usually a sign of a bigger problem.  It is the symptom rather than the disease.  Since there are different types of insomnia, there are different causes for it as well.  Transient and short term insomnia tend to be linked to situational elements such as shift work, jet lag, life stress, or hospital stays or short-term physical difficulties such as having the flu or detoxing from a drug or alcohol addiction.  Chronic insomnia tends to be linked to a medical or psychiatric condition of which insomnia is a symptom such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.  It is also a symptom of some kinds of drug addiction.

When treating insomnia there are quite a few different methods that have been explored in recent years.  It seems that a combination of medications and cognitive behavior therapies works well for most people who are suffering.  Medications for insomnia are fairly straightforward, but there are several different kinds of cognitive behavior therapies that are effect for the treatment of insomnia.

Insomnia Therapy Options

Stimulus Control Therapy

Stimulus Control Therapy is just like it sounds. Therapists ask patients to participate in a controlled set of factors that are intended to give the brain and body cues that it is time to sleep.  Therapists will ask patients not to nap during the day as this sends the wrong message to the body and brain.  Therapists encourage patients to go to bed when they feel tired and to set an alarm so that they get up at the same time every day regardless of whether or not they have slept well.  Another element of stimulus control is regarding what happens in bed. Many people read, watch TV, eat, and generally hang out in bed.  But if you have insomnia, these are the worst things you can do.  Your bed should be for sleeping and that is all.

Sleep Hygiene Therapy

Along with Stimulus Control Therapy, a patient might also be asked to take on Sleep Hygiene Therapy as well.  In Sleep Hygiene Therapy, a patient will do more work to keep his or her brain and body ready for sleep when the time it right.  Patients will be asked to avoid forcing themselves to sleep and to sleep only as much as is necessary to feel rested rather than oversleeping all the time.  Sleep Hygiene Therapy discourages smoking as nicotine is a stimulant, and drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages in the evening.  Therapists will recommend that patients exercise for about 20 to 30 minutes each day, eat something small before going to bed so that the patient is not hungry, turn down the lights and the noise for 30 minutes before going to bed, and resolve any nagging issues before settling in for the night.

Relaxation Therapy

Relaxation Therapy, like Stimulus Control Therapy, is aptly named.  Relaxation Therapy asks patients to practice relaxation techniques before attempting to go to bed.  Meditation is a popular choice for relaxation techniques.  Relaxation Therapy can also include muscle relaxation where the patient is asked to tense and relax each muscle in the body one at a time.  It can also involve listening to soothing music and turning down the lights in the hour or so before trying to sleep.

Sleep Restriction Therapy

Sleep Restriction Therapy combines some of the elements from the other therapies mentioned.  The essence of Sleep Restriction Therapy is that patients are asked to spend a very minimal amount time in bed.  The patient and therapist set a rigid bedtime and a rigid rising time.  Even if the patient does not sleep, this is all the time that he or she can spend in the bed.  The potential sleep deprivation from the night before can ultimately help the patient sleep.  He or she is also asked to stay away from large meals, extra beverages, and screen time before bed.  The bedroom should be dim with limited noise and distraction.  All work, reading, television watching, and eating should be done outside the bedroom.  It should only be used for sleeping during the prescribed hours.

Seven Common Unhealthy Patterns of Thinking

Cognitive behavior therapy is the gold standard for therapeutic practice. The thought behind cognitive behavior therapy says that the way that we think affect the way that we feel, and inversely, the way that we feel affects our decisions, choices, and behaviors.  Cognitive behavior therapy works to seek out and correct unhealthy thinking that is causing mental anguish.  While this is a fairly simplified explanation of what happens in cognitive behavior therapy, this is the gist of it.

With the help of cognitive behavior therapy, you can take mental disorders like anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorders or bipolar disorder and get real, lasting help.  You do not need to have a diagnosed disorder to need or receive help from cognitive behavior therapy.

Seven Unhealthy Thinking Patterns Cognitive Behavior Therapy Can Help


  1. Overgeneralization – Do you often use the word “always” or “never” when you are talking about the behaviors of someone else or an occurrence that you find happens often? This is overgeneralization.  Your boss asks you to rewrite something and you say that she always makes you redo things that you submit.  This is overgeneralization.  You tell your husband that he never changes the toilet paper roll.  This is overgeneralization.

  1. Self-Serving Bias – With the Self-Serving Bias cognitive distortion, the person in question regularly attributes good things and positive events to him or herself – saying that the fundraiser had such a great turnout because he or she was there, or that the company made more money solely because of his or her efforts – while attributing negative happenings or events to external factors. Examples of external factors can include a fender bender caused by a careless biker or a “hidden” street sign, or an event was not as profitable because other people did not pull their own weight.  Sometimes this may be true, but the person with a Self-Serving Bias will make these claims whether they are true or not.

  1. Einstein’s definition of insanity – Einstein said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While this is not the true definition of insanity, it is a cognitive distortion.  One of the best examples of this is in relationship communications and the classic visage of the nagging wife.  She believes that if she nags her partner, he or she will change.  When that does not work, she nags more expecting that this will have a different result and the extra nagging will make her partner change.  Chances are, her partner is not going to change regardless of how much nagging she does.

  1. Thinking only in black and white. – The whole world is made up of shades of gray. Thinking about things in an all or nothing kind of way without seeing all of the possibilities in between is a cognitive distortion.  For example, you wrote a paper for a college class.  You get a B.  If you are a black and white thinker, you do not do any more work for that class because there is no point in working if you are not going to get an A every time.

  1. Labeling – Even more extreme than black and white thinking, labeling takes all or nothing thinking to the extreme. A person who engages in labeling will take the B on the paper, decide based on the grade that he or she is stupid and has no business being enrolled in higher education.  Labeling involves putting a label on yourself or others based on a very limited event or on insufficient information.

  1. Ignoring alternate theories – You have come up with a theory or a potential plan for how something is going to happen. But you are working in a group and other people have information that you do not have or input that needs to be heard.  If you ignore the information that could be helpful to you or you dismiss reasons other than your own for why or how something should happen or did happen, this is a cognitive distortion.

  1. Personality absorption or cognitive conformity – Often, this happens in the subconscious, but personality absorption or cognitive conformity happens when you take on the views and the thoughts of the people around you in order to fit in. Most of the time, a person does not consciously realize that this is happening, but it is a real and potentially very dangerous cognitive distortion.

10 Tips to Reduce Child Stress and Fears

1. Validate, Don’t Reassure

Reassurances are well intended. However, they cause harm instead of helping.  No matter how nicely couched or well put, reassurances give the message your child’s fear is unfounded and adds anxiety as children become anxious about having the anxiety. Validation, showing that you understand and commiserating empathically,  using a formula such as “It sound like you’re nervous about (insert fear here), I’m sorry you’re going through that,” encourages problem solving and confidence and will go a long way in helping reduce child stress.

2. Ask Questions Rather Than Give Answers

Ask questions that help your child come up with solutions, rather than giving them solutions.  This gives the message that your child has the power to overcome their fears.  Appropriate questions include clarifying what in particular is making them anxious, how likely they feel the feared consequences may be, and how long they think the discomfort they fear may last.  Most importantly, ask what other facts, or likely possibilities your child might be forgetting that may lessen the fear.

3. Use Empowering Phrases

If you have to introduce your own suggestions, use the following phrases that empower children, including “Would you be interested to know how I handle stress when I feel it?” or “Would you like to hear what I might do if I was in your situation?”

4. Inform Them

Let your child know that fear isn’t dangerous and that having anxiety doesn’t mean they won’t perform well or be able to accomplish the feared task.  In fact, anxiety is our body’s way of getting us to prepare the right way.

5. Remind Them To Focus on Results

Help your child understand that worrying about and focusing on results and outcomes get is the way of doing the best job possible.  The best thing they can do is focus on what they are doing in the present moment and gently bring back their attention to what they are doing, no matter how many times their attention strays.

6. Let Them Know That You Experience The Same Feelings

Let your child know that adults have stress and fear as well.

7. Make a List

Have your child make a list of strengths and examples of when they overcame fears to succeed.

8. Encourage Positive Self-Talk

Help your child develop their own personal mantras they can use to talk back to fears and concerns.  This helps replace negative thoughts with realistic thoughts, which allows your children approach feared situations in a more effective and accurate way.

9. Let Them Encounter Fear

Set up opportunities for your child to encounter their feared situations in small doses.  For example, if your child is afraid of going to the dentist, arrange one day to go and wait in the waiting room for 15 to 20 minutes.  Praise them for staying in the waiting room as long as they did and set up a different time to meet the dentist or to have them watch you at the dentist and so on, until their fear gradually diminishes to a tolerable level.

10. Seek Professional Assistance if Necessary

If your child continues to struggle, get them the right help earlier, rather than later. If you need help dealing with your anxiety issues, the greatest gift you can give your children is to effectively deal with that as well.

Seven Red Flags that Your Child is Being Bullied

As parents, we all want our children to live a safe and healthy life. The idea that your child is being bullied or made fun of by other kids should make us feel very uncomfortable. You are probably the kind of parent who hopes that your child will come to you with this kind of problem, but kids are unpredictable and often do not speak up when they are having a problem with bullying.

According to current statistics, 1 in 3 children are the victim of childhood bullying.  This should be a terrifying statistic, but bullying has become so much a part of our culture that most of us probably did not blink an eye in reading those numbers. The research suggests that when an authority figure takes a stand against the bullying, it usually stops.  But too often, parents, guardians, or teachers do not even know that there is a problem until the damage is already done.  Being vigilant can be the best defense.

There are some signs that your child is being bullied at school or somewhere outside of your home.

Sudden Changes in Mood

Dealing with a bully and losing the battle can be hard on a kid.  He or she is likely to feel depressed and helpless while all of this is going on.

Declining School Performance

If the bullying is happening at school, your child can express anxiety about being at school or going to school which is going to affect the way that he or she performs in the classroom.  If your child is one of the smarter children in class and the bully activity is based on that fact, your child may be trying to compensate or may be anxious about what the response will be to his or her performance.  If your child struggles in school and the bullying is in that area, he or she might start to believe that what the bully is saying is true.

Returns Home with Damaged or Missing Items

Sometimes the source of bullying is that your child has something that the bully wants, and being a bully, he or she simply takes it.  This could mean that your child will come home from the confrontation missing something he or she valued or with damage done to something in his or her possession.

Returns Home with Damage Done to His or Her Body

If your child comes home with cuts or bruises that cannot be explained by a playground trip, then you need to have a conversation with your child immediately.  No form of bullying should be acceptable, but the least acceptable is physical violence.  Your child could be seriously injured if he or she is beat up by a person who is bigger and potentially older and stronger than he or she is.

Returns Home Very Hungry Despite Having a Packed Lunch or Lunch Money

Schoolyard bullies have long been responsible for missing lunches and missing lunch money.  Bullies often extort money or food from their victims.

Has Trouble Sleeping or Has Frequent Nightmares

Some children are just naturally prone to these kinds of nighttime difficulties, but you know your child best.  He or she may be feeling anxiety about going to sleep and staying asleep, because that means that the bullying will begin again the next day.  Some children might have nightmares because of the feelings they are experiencing about being bullied.

Avoids Certain Places or Events

Maybe your child loved going to football games and now avoids them.  Maybe your child loved going to band practice but now will not set foot in the door.  It is possible that a bully is affecting the behavior of your child. When a child is being bullied, they might want to continue doing the things that he or she loves, but not at the expense of being brutalized while there.

What To Do When You Know Your Child Is Being Bullied

While we cannot and should not really fight our children’s battles, there are things that e can do as parents to help grease the wheels of justice.  Find out where the bullying is occurring and alert the proper authority figures or take the stand yourself.  There is no reason why your child should have to endure any kind of bullying.  It is not normal despite statistics to the contrary, and it should be dealt with as swiftly as possible.

Four Social Skills That Will Help Your Child in School

September means that school has started and fall is coming which means lots of time thinking about things like homework and indoor activities.  In some ways, indoor activities require more social skills than outdoor activities as far as children are concerned.  Some children have difficulty with some of the basic social skills.  Children’s social skills are extremely important – studies have shown that having or acquiring these skills can help a child succeed in academic life, as well as away from it.  That is not to say that having social skills will make a child smarter.  It means that having social skills will make a child better able to learn and succeed in school.

#1 Listen – Children are not always going to listen.  That is a choice. But it is important for them to be able to listen when they need to.  Children need to have some listening skills to be able hear directions being given by parents and teachers.  They also need to know how to listen when their classmates and peers are speaking.  Listening to peers is an important skill.  The child who learns to be a conscientious listener will be able to hear and respond to comments and instructions as he or she gets older.  Conscientious listeners hear more of what the people around them are saying and are able to participate in any conversation in any situation.

#2 Follow – Children are not always going to follow the rules or follow directions.  This is also a choice.  The child should be taught to follow the instructions of the teacher or the parents, and follow the rules of the school of the home.  Teaching a child to follow rules and directions comes from clear communication about the consequences if he or she does not follow the rules and directions. If the child understands the consequences and make the choice not to follow, that is another issue altogether.  He or she needs to better understand why it is important to follow the rules and directions.

#3 Ask for Help – Children need to learn that it is okay to ask for help.  Modelling is the best way to communicate this kind of data.  When you as a parent, guardian, or teacher, need assistance, ask for it.  This will say to the child that asking for help is acceptable and that he or she does not have to do everything alone.  When he or she does ask for help, do not just give the child the answer.  Guide him or her in way that will lead him or her toward the answer or a way of thinking that will lead toward the answer.  Children are not stupid, they just do not have the benefit of experience that adults have.

#4 Be Responsible – Teaching a child to be responsible may be no easy task.  It will be hard on the child and hard on the adult.  You must first ask the child to take responsibility for him or herself.  This means keeping track of his or her belongings, owning up when a wrong has been done, or doing the tasks that have been assigned without a fight.  These are all difficult for children whose primary function to this point has likely been to just be.  Teaching responsibility is a process that will likely take a while to really see the benefits.  Children will forget and misplace things.  They will display unacceptable behaviors and not own up.  They will fight about doing their chores or assignments.  But instilling in them a sense of responsibility will carry over into their adult lives where it will make the most difference.

Children’s Social Skills and Academic Success

Having these social skills and others can help a child succeed in school.  They will be better able to cooperate and practice self-control, which reduces behavior problems and increases the amount of time the whole class spends learning.  Most of these social skills are not taught in the classrooms.  These are things that either children acquire over time or they will need to be taught at home.  As class sizes increase and resources decrease, teachers are often too pressured to be able to deal with the basic social skills that can help children learn.  Children may require some outside help in order to master these skills, and that is completely acceptable.  No matter where your child learns the basics of social interaction and acceptable behavior, he or she will benefit from the knowledge for the rest of his or her life.

Five Ways To Help Someone Who Is Grieving

Several weeks ago, we talked about what the grieving process looks like, what we can do for ourselves when we are grieving, and when we need to make the decision to get ourselves some help.  But from that conversation, another question arose.  What can we do for someone we care about who is grieving the loss of someone important to him or her?  Our own grief is sometimes easier to bear than the grief of someone else. Helping someone who is grieving can be difficult, because our instinct is usually to try to come up with some way to make the person who is grieving feel better, and we often feel so helpless to do so.  Even though out intentions are good, we can easily say or do the wrong thing, or say and do nothing out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.  While there is no such thing as the perfect response to the death of person who is important to someone who is important to you, there are some ways that you can be supportive.

Stick To The Things You Know To Be True

It is usually more comfortable for all of us to reiterate the platitudes that we have all heard about the death of a loved one.  Things like how he or she is in a better place, or he or she is out of pain now.  Stay away from the idea that the person you care about will eventually feel better.  It is going to be more helpful for your loved one if you can help him or her deal with the present rather than focus on the future or the past.  All you need to be able to say is that you are sorry that your friend is hurt, you hurt because he or she hurts, you love and care about him or her, and you are there whenever you are needed.

Let Exceptions To The Rules Be Okay

If the person who is grieving wants to talk about the past, do it.  Talk things out.  Talk about good things.  Talk about bad things.  Talk about anything.  Sometimes this story telling about the life of the person who is no longer with you can be therapeutic.  Also, if the person who is grieving wants to discuss the future and what it will look like without the person who is no longer with you, let that happen too.

Remember That This Grief Is Not Yours

While you may have some grief of your own regarding the death of this important person, you are not the focus here.  Your relationship with the person you care about is going to be a bit lopsided for a while.  The person you care about will not be able to be there to deal with your stresses, your angers, and your fears.  You may start to feel ignored or resentful of all the time you spend helping someone without getting any consideration back for your efforts, but you need to come to terms with that.  You are the supporter, not the supportee.  If this means that you need to find some other people who can support you, take this opportunity to widen your support net and branch out.

Be Available, If You Can

It is okay for you to need to go on with your life.  You should not let your work, school, or family suffer, but taking some extra time to be with your friend and be available for anything that he or she should need is advisable.  That said, try to anticipate that your friend may want to talk or be distracted, but does not want to inconvenience you.  Call him or her to check in, to make a lunch date, or tell him or her when you are coming over to help with mundane things that might be difficult right now such as walking the dog, taking out the trash, or cooking some meals.

Be a Buffer

What you friend might need most is time to grieve.  And if he or she has many friends like you, it might be difficult to get some time alone.  Tell your friend that you will gladly run interference between him or her and all of the other people who care.  Tell him or her to turn on the voicemail and leave your number so that all of these caring people know that their message will be heard and that your friend knows he or she has lots of people to turn to for help in this incredibly difficult time.

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