Friday, May 31, 2013

Parents Beware: 10 Stupid Things Your Kid Might Try Over Summer Break

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC

Just compiling this list of stupid things your kid might do over summer break was enough to drive me, as a parent, into a massive anxiety attack.  After all, summer break should be about camps, swimming, going to the beach, parks, and hanging out with friends.  Unfortunately the combination of unsupervised kids, the internet and time to burn can be a deadly one.

After the shock of my anxiety attack died down, this list is meant to get your attention, as a parent, and perhaps to wake you up to the possibilities of immature behavior that goes way beyond the fears of social media, bullying, internet pornography, and gambling.  Unfortunately each of these items is very easy to research on the internet and some even have YouTube videos explaining how it works. 

1.       Choking Game, Pass-Out Game, Fainting Game, Space Monkey.  This is self-administered or friend-administered - choking to the point of losing consciousness in order to achieving a high.  Every time your kid does this, they literally lose brain cells that can never be regenerated and some have even died from it. 

2.       Huffing, Sniffing, Dusting, Bagging.  This is sniffing inhalants found in common household products such as bug spray, room deodorizers, and glue.  The poisonous chemicals are sprayed into a rag, inhaled directly from the container or sprayed into a bag placed over your kid’s head creating a high when inhaled.  Numerous cases of permanent brain damage have been reported.

3.       Drinking bleach.  There are many false rumors on the internet that drinking bleach will help your child to pass a drug test or that it is an effective way to commit suicide.   Rather, your kid is likely to end up in the emergency room with severe intestinal, stomach, and esophagus damage.

4.       Sexting, Rounds, Nude Pictures.  The idea of rounds is that you start small such as sending a picture of bare skin to another kid and they in return send another one back with each one escalating the previous picture.  Sexting and nude pictures are commonly done with iPods, iPads or cell phones.

5.       Boozy Bears, Drunken Gummies, Rummy Bears.  Gummy bears are soaked in rum or vodka and then eaten in order to get drunk.  The worst part is that the gummy bears look normal after they have absorbed the alcohol so it is difficult to detect.

6.       Eyeball Shots, Eyeballing.  Kids put vodka directly into their eyes in order to get drunk and avoid the alcohol smell on their breath.  Many kids have found that this leads to blindness instead.

7.       Butt Chugging, Vodka Tampons.  Frightening but true, another way kids get drunk is by soaking tampons in vodka and then inserting them into the rectum. 

8.       Skittle Parties, Pill Parties.  Kids raid parents, grandparents, and friend’s parent’s medicine cabinets looking for prescription drugs.  Typically they only take a couple of pills as not to be noticed and then place all of the pills gathered into a bowl.  Then the kids roll some dice and take the number of pills which match the number on the dice.  The pills are taken randomly so no one knows what effect it will have after being ingested.

9.       Purple Drink, Purple Jelly, Texas Tea.  Made popular by several RAP songs, this is a drink combination of Jolly Ranchers, Sprite, and liquid codeine cough medicine.  The concoction produces hallucinations, unresponsiveness and lethargy.

10.   Car Surfing, Ghost Riding, Urban Surfing.  Kids stand in a surfing position on the top of a car, hood or trunk while the car is in motion with speeds as high as 55m.p.h.  The driver is usually a teenager who is inexperienced in handling vehicles.  Teens are two to three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident compared to experienced drivers.

It is truly shocking to learn the stupid things kids will do because someone told them it would be a good idea.  Lest you believe that these are just the older high school kids doing such acts, several articles indicate that kids as young as 10 are engaging in these behaviors. 

Now that you are warned about the latest in stupid things kids do, it is your job to educate your child and remove dangerous items from your house.  Prescription medication, alcohol, and dangerous household chemicals should all be locked up not just for your kid’s safety but the safety of their friends who come over.  Talk to your kids about choking, car surfing, sexting and bagging; more than likely they already know of someone who has tried at least one of these items. 

This is not the time to bury your head in the sand, naively believe that your child would never do one of these things, or minimize the risks by justifying your own poor choices as a kid.  Instead, be aware, communicate, and educate so your kid won’t become a negative statistic. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

There Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues? Nonsense!


4 Ways to Survive (and Thrive) During the Kids’ Summer Break


By Laura Hull, LMFT

 Coping Coach


As the mother of six children, (4 boys, two girls) ranging in age from 19-5, I frequently hear the bewildered comments of dumbfounded others who look at me like I have three heads when I mention that I have six children.  I always look forward to summer break with my kids, and experience a short period of mourning when the school year resumes in August.  If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me over the years, “you must dread the summer break when all the kids are home at once,” I would have the money to write this blog from the sunny beaches on the south of France.  I love having my kids home for summer break.  However, there are reasons why it works.   Chaos is not allowed to reign and boredom is not allowed.   Not every minute of summer break needs to be structured, but time should not be wasted, either.  Here are some suggestions that have worked in my home:


  1. Have A Plan!  Sit down with your kids today and start an active discussion about what they would like to do with their time this summer.  At first, you may get the requisite “I don’t know” answers.  But prod by making specific suggestions in order to get the ball rolling.  Make a list of activities and post them on the refrigerator.  Do the footwork to make those things happen.  Get dates, times, costs and start adding events to the calendar.  Don’t leave the discussion hanging without coming up with a fairly detailed tentative plan.  Did you know that Vacation Bible Schools are happening all over the place during the summer?  This is a great way to spend some time with peers over the summer, while also learning important spiritual lessons.  These week-long events are usually for a few hours per day and often free or with a very nominal charge to cover material costs.   If your child is interested in day camps or week-long camps, summer is the perfect time to explore interests that perhaps cannot be explored during the school year due to time constraints.  Camps are great ways to spend time over the summer if your child has interest in going.  One downside to the camps is often the cost involved.  Camps should be incorporated into the summer schedule only if there is interest in going and if the cost does not create a financial hardship.  Many children are in daycare situations during the summer due to parents’ work schedules.  These, of course, provide much structure and stimulation during the work week.  If your child/children are in daycare all day, Monday through Friday, make a deliberate effort to build quality family time into the weekend schedule.  It is very easy to allow weekends to become “catch up” time for house projects, etc.  But it’s crucial to make family time on the weekends.  Children can, of course, be included in household projects, as is age appropriate.  But do NOT let an entire weekend go by without some down time….do something just plain ol’ fun!


  1. Be Willing to Scrap the Plan!  Be flexible.  Sometimes even the best-laid plans must be scrapped or adjusted.  This is not a tragedy.  The beauty of summer break is the ability to change things up.  Do not become flustered if trips must be changed or abandoned due to unforeseen circumstances.  Illnesses happen, children lose interest in certain activities; sometime kids just need down time to do nothing.  Did you catch that last statement?  Sometimes kids need permission to just do nothing and veg.  I think it’s very easy for us, as parents, to want to involve our kids in as many opportunities as possible, to give them the exposure to many things in order to develop their interests and skill sets.  Like adults, kids can experience burnout too.  It just looks different on a child.  I have been guilty of this, as well, more so when my older children were younger.  Try to build at least one day into every week that is truly flexible - time-wise and activity-wise.  Be flexible enough to accommodate impromptu play dates with friends and last minute activities/invites as they come along.


  1. Give Kids Some Responsibilities!  Make a very direct and specific list of things to be addressed over the summer.  Perhaps set an expectation for assigned reading. (eg. three novel length books over the summer, or whatever is age appropriate).  Another suggestion is to make each child responsible for choosing, planning and executing the preparation for dinner one night per week.  This is appropriate for school age children, with the amount of adult supervision being contingent on age and previous experience.  Pre-teens and older are most often very capable of researching recipes online, planning grocery lists, and preparing a meal.  Teens should be capable of this with little or no direct supervision.  Even younger children are capable of helping (with plenty of adult supervision) make cookies or other types of baking (helping grease and flour plans, adding ingredients to the mixing bowls, etc.)  If your children are not comfortable in the kitchen, make this summer the summer they learn!  Pre-teen and older children can be taught how to competently wash and dry their own clothes without ruining them.  These types of skills must be learned at some point anyway, and give kids a feeling of accomplishment when they do them successfully.  So why not start now?  Keeping bedrooms clean, and other household chores should be very manageable over the summer.  Require it.


  1. Be Patient, Loving and Kind With Your Children  We only have a limited number of summers with our children at home.  While it is very easy to feel flustered with the demands of parenthood, the reality is that time is fleeting.  It’s so cliché to say “it only seems like yesterday when they were just babies”, but it’s true.  PARENTS:  you have the power to create memories for your children.  They will remember how much time you spent or did not spend with them.  They will remember if you were patient and kind, or if you were irritated and impatient most of the time.  They will remember if you were truly engaged with them or dismissive and too busy to be bothered.  These days of childhood are numbered and what you do with them can determine the kinds of people they will be in life, and the kind of relationship you have with them in their adult lives.  WHAT YOU DO RIGHT NOW MATTERS.


Make the decision right now that this summer will be the summer that you and they will remember fondly.  It is within your power and control to make this happen.  Create some beautiful memories with your children.  It will mean a lot to them now, and they will remember it later.   It will mean even more to you later.  Trust.  Make it happen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Community Crisis Recovery Guide

Strategies to rebuild you and your kids after a tragedy
By Dwight Bain
A community crisis, (like a mass shooting or natural disaster), can destroy entire communities in just a few minutes, while the recovery process to rebuild from a major critical incident may take weeks or months to sort through. The more you know about how to survive and rebuild after the crisis, the faster you can take positive action to get your personal and professional life back on track. Since community crisis events like extreme acts of violence or terrorism are unpredictable it requires a different course of action from natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and floods. What can you do right now to cope with the psychological impact of a major community crisis? 

Dealing directly with your emotions will reduce the tension and stress on you, which allows you to have more energy to deal with a difficult situation. However, if you stuff your fears and frustrations in a major community crisis, your emotions can quickly blow up without warning. Exploding in rage on your children, your coworkers or your marriage partner will only make a difficult situation worse. Community crisis events are a terrible situation full of loss and difficulty for everyone. By taking action now you can move beyond feeling overwhelmed by intense stress, anger or confusion. As you follow the insight from this recovery guide, you will be taking positive steps to rebuild with the focused energy of an even stronger life for you and your family after the emergency service workers pack up and go home because your community has recovered.
To best survive a major community crisis, you need a strong combination of three key elements
- healthy coping skills
- healthy supports and a
- healthy perspective

While things will never be the same as they were before the community crisis, (like a mass shooting); the following guidelines will give you the key elements needed to get past the overwhelming stress and to find even greater strength on the other side.
- What are the dangerous warning signs of stress overload?

A major community crisis affects everyone however; it becomes dangerous to our health when the stress goes on for an extended period of time. Major stress can affect adults, children, the elderly and even pets, so it is important to be alert to watch for the danger signs of the psychological condition called, ‘Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder’, (commonly referred to as PTSD), in yourself, your family members and coworkers. These symptoms include any dramatic change in emotions, behavior, thought patterns or physical symptoms over the next few days, weeks or even months. Since community crisis events are a terribly stressful time for everyone and often remain stressful for days or weeks to come, there are a number of factors to be aware of to keep yourself and those who
you care about safe.
Stress Warning Signs-

These signs are indicators that the intense stress from the critical incident is beginning to overwhelm the individual. The longer the stress symptoms occur-the greater the severity of the traumatic event on the individual. This does not imply craziness or personal weakness; rather, it simply indicates that the stress levels from the storm were too powerful for the person to manage and their body is reacting to the abnormal situation of having survived a major trauma.
It’s normal to feel completely overwhelmed by a community crisis like a mass shooting or natural disaster; however there are danger signs to watch for in yourself or others that may indicate psychological trauma. Adults or children who display any of the following stress symptoms may need additional help dealing with the events of this crisis. It is strongly recommended that you seek the appropriate medical or psychological assistance if you see a lot of the physical, emotional, cognitive or behavioral symptoms listed below in you, your coworkers, or someone in your family or home,
especially if these symptoms weren’t present before the storm.
Physical Symptoms:

Chills, thirst, fatigue, nausea, fainting, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, chest pain, headaches, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing, shock symptoms, and so on.
Emotional Symptoms:

Fear, guilt, grief, panic, denial, anxiety, irritability, depression, apprehension, emotional shock, and feeling overwhelmed, loss of emotional control, and so on.
Cognitive Symptoms:

Confusion, nightmares, uncertainty, hyper-vigilance, suspiciousness, intrusive images, poor problem solving, poor abstract thinking, poor attention/memory and concentration, disorientation of time, places or people, difficulty identifying objects or people, heightened or lowered alertness, and so on.
Behavioral Symptoms:

Withdrawal, antisocial acts, inability to rest, intensified pacing, erratic movements, changes in social activity, changes in speech patterns, loss of or increase of appetite, increased alcohol consumption, and so on.
If you are in doubt about these symptoms in your life, or someone you care about, it is wise to seek the care of a physician or certified mental health professional. Better to actively deal with the stressful emotions directly to help yourself and your loved ones to immediately cope with this crisis because these emotions tend to worsen and get more intense if left untreated. Remember that there are many experienced professionals who can help you and your children recover during a time of crisis. You do not have to go through this alone.

Take action now to prevent stress from continuing to overwhelm you or the people you care about. Call a trusted friend to talk through it, reach out to clergy, or call your family doctor or counselor. If you don't know someone to call about these emotional issues, you can reach out for assistance by calling telephone hotlines which are offered at no cost to you. These numbers are often posted by local media, hospitals, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army or FEMA. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, guilt or grief it's important to make the call for assistance now to learn how to get past the pressure to begin to feel ‘okay’ again.
- How does a community crisis event affect kids?

It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more they look to their parents for emotional security and strength. If a Mom or Dad are “shell-shocked" or “numb” and not able to manage their own emotions or responsibilities; the child will feel that pressure and become very confused and further stressed. Remember, it's normal to be overwhelmed by a community crisis like a mass shooting. This is why it's so important to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children and those your care about through the long period of recovery and rebuilding after the storm.

Think about the advice given on commercial airliners to parents traveling with small children. “Should there be an unexpected cabin de-pressurization; oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth like this and then place the mask over the mouth and nose of those around you needing assistance.” Take care of your own emotional needs first, and then you will be in a stronger position to help those around you. If you feel overwhelmed in giving your children or others who may depend on you for support, please ask for help. It's okay to be tired, worn out and overly stressed. That's normal after a community crisis. However, it's not okay to ignore caring for the needs of those counting on you like children, the elderly or pets. Sometimes a parent may need to make adjustments at work or change their own schedules for a while by delegating some tasks in order to have time and energy to help their children avoid feeling more pressure from the difficult experience that surviving a major disaster brings. If you feel that your caregiver ‘tank’ is empty, let someone else help you for a while until you get your strength back. That's best for you and for those that you care about.

When you can focus and dedicate attention to understanding the needs of young children, notice what they are saying, drawing or doing to determine if they are still feeling overly stressed from the traumatic event.
School age kids

need to talk, draw pictures or take positive action, (like having a lemonade stand to raise money for kids just like them who may have lost loved ones or family members because of the traumatic event), so if you give them something to do to help, they can take positive action and sort through their emotions immediately.
High school age kids

may try to act "cool" about everything, but often are more scared about the changes, losses and confusion than any other group. They are older and may need to experience a bit more "reality" at times to loosen up their ability to talk about what is happening around them. If they are willing to talk to their siblings, other family members, clergy or counselors it often doesn’t take very long before they can grow strong enough to deal with their emotions and get back to feeling like themselves again.

The greatest danger sign to be alert and aware of is by noticing any dramatic changes in behavior. If a child was always happy go lucky before the crisis event and now sits all day to watch video footage of the shooting, or other world disasters on the news channels- then you may want to figure out why they made such a dramatic shift in personality. Watch for other major changes in sleep patterns, school patterns, school performance, peer relations and so on. If you see major changes that concern you, it's time to seek professional attention for the child with their pediatrician or with a
child behavioral specialist
- What are some ways to help our kids talk about the crisis?

You can reach out to children in many ways to help them deal with this stressful time. Talking, writing, drawing, or writing poetry about the experience with the disaster will make the time pass more quickly, and may even lighten someone else's load of emotional pain and difficulty while helping you back through the process. Talking about any crisis event in life can help kids learn the basics of moving from the panic of basic survival to building strengths through problem solving.
- Are there any “hidden dangers” in media that parents should be concerned about that might make the crisis worse?

Too much media exposure is dangerous for kids. It is better to get a media "news update" once or perhaps at the most, twice a day to avoid the danger of media over-exposure. Leaving the news on all the time will depress the mood of the person who hears it; since deep down inside we learn to go "numb" to the normal emotions of the stressful event, to press on and burn reserve energy in the process. If your child didn't watch the morning news programs before the community crisis, be cautious about allowing them to watch TV news alone or having long blocks of unaccounted time with too much isolation. Best is to sort through media outlets-like television, Internet, radio or newspapers, which may contain content that is overly stressful or just too depressing for a child. Then set boundaries to protect them from additional stress in media stories, since it is important to protect their home and minds by managing the media around them.
It's wise to move from negatives to positives in highly charged and difficult situations like a mass shooting or wide spread community disaster. We have all seen enough negative images to last a lifetime and yet the media will often play scenes from a disaster over again and again. Also, parents and kids can sit down and discuss why they really need to have so many media and entertainment services available in their homes. Many families found that not having the Internet, cable television and loud music playing in their homes while staying in a shelter allowed them to reconnect as a family with much greater communication. By sitting down and discussing these issues your home can be a more positive place, by creating more positive energy to mange the stress of recovering from this crisis situation.
Since watching other people’s problems in other parts of the country will cause more stress in an already stressful situation it's better to focus on your responsibilities today, right here in your own community. When things in your life are strong again, you and your family won't be as affected by the images of crisis from other places. But that's another day, so for now as you recover, it’s better to focus on getting you and your kids though the day that you have been handed without making it harder because of the hidden stress of media overexposure.
Also, the same principles apply for the aged as for anyone else. Seniors often can spend a tremendous amount of time in front of negative media images which can be harmful to their wellbeing. Better to get involved in helping others, praying for those affected or donating to help as you can than to become overwhelmed with the stressors of others by becoming desensitized from media over-exposure.
- How can I help my family get back to “normal” after a community disaster?

It may take weeks or months for people to feel that things are back to “normal.” The actual psychological impact of the storm will vary widely between people based on factors like- age, their previous experiences with crisis events and most significantly how much stress they already had in their life before the disaster. The more stress someone had in their life prior to the traumatic event, the longer it takes to recover.
Here are some immediate ways to bring order and calmness back into your life after the chaos and confusion that follows a natural disaster or community crisis like a mass shooting.
1) Reconnect in relationships -

You can't get through a crisis alone. Since we all were impacted differently, it is vitally important to talk about the stress and pressures you have experienced with the people closest to you. Reach out to friends and family as soon as possible, and call people you haven't heard from in a while. Just checking in to see if they are okay will only take a few minutes, but it will empower and help both of you. Simply talk about what each of you experienced through the crisis and how you got through it. Tremendous connection can occur through crisis, so this is an especially good time to reach out to friends or family who may have drifted away from your closest circle of relationships. Take action now to reach out to people with words of encouragement and support, but don't wait for someone else to call you- since their phone may not work! Go find them and then reconnect the relationship while helping each other rebuild.

2) Rebuild your routines-

This is one of the most important factors to quickly get life back on track because we all draw strength and security from a structured daily routine. Bed time, dinner time, getting up to go to school, or work, or church or the gym to work out. To regain strength quickly identify what your normal routines were before the crisis-and then get back to them as soon as possible. Even if you are staying in a hotel, shelter or with family members for a while, stick with the rituals that you have typically followed that make up your daily lifestyle. This way you will feel the comfort of your stable and predictable routines, regardless of the stress of the many changes happening around you.

3) Reach out for faith-

In times of crisis everyone believes in the power of prayer and the importance of their faith. There is tremendous strength in knowing what you believe and living in harmony with those beliefs and values. Plugging back into your faith after a community crisis will allow you to release anxiety over the things that you know are too big for you, because you can trust God to handle them. Dedicate a few minutes or perhaps even an hour per day to quiet mediation and reflection on what matters most if you want to continue to grow strong in spite of the storm. This is especially important when you or your children may feel lost, alone or afraid. God cares and taking time to pray and release those burdens will help you make it through the rest of your day. Many churches and houses of faith have chaplains, recovery teams, support services and even financial assistance available to help their members cope with the crisis. Helping others in need is one of the greatest ways people of faith model what they believe, so avoid the tendency of being “too nice” to ask for help if you need it. Having a committed personal faith combined with the connection of a local house of worship will give you a tremendous sense of community to get through this storm as well as the ones to come.
4) Retell your story-

Young and old alike will benefit from hearing about how other people survived the trauma they experienced. There is tremendous power in telling your story; healing power for you and helpful power for others who will gain insight and strength by hearing how creative people can become through the crisis. As you speak up about what happened, it will make it easier for other family members or coworkers to talk about their feelings of loss as well. Things will never be the same as before, but life will go on and we can rebuild and get through it better together. Telling your story now will give you additional strength as well as connect you to the neighbors and friends as they share their story with you.
No matter what the size of crisis event, you can find strength on the other side. Following the action steps in this resource guide will allow you to begin building strength back into your personal and professional life no matter how big the crisis event was. As you grow stronger you can tell others, which will encourage them to press on as they rebuild their lives, right next to yours. Stronger people create stronger communities and that is the journey you have already begun. I encourage you to stay with it as you build an even stronger life after the crisis, and then reach out to others in rebuilding your community.
Reprint Permission- If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit or call 407-647-7005"

About the author-
Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

Helping Kids deal with the Stress of Natural Disasters

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Monster storms like Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, Floods, Blizzards, Forest Fires or Mud Slides destroy more than communities- they destroy emotional security and stability in the lives of everyone impacted by these critical incidents, especially children. Equipping parents and teachers with response techniques is essential so they can make a positive difference during the rebuilding process. Here are some key elements to know in serving children who have been emotionally traumatized by natural disasters.

How are children affected?
It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more they look to their parents for emotional security and strength. If a parent is “shell-shocked" or psychologically “numb” and not able to manage their own emotions or responsibilities; the child feels even more pressure and becomes more confused and stressed. Remember, it's normal to be overwhelmed by a major natural disaster, which is why it's so important for caregivers to take care of themselves in order to effectively take care of children through the months of recovery and rebuilding after the storm.

Focus on the needs of Younger children by noticing what they are saying, drawing or doing to determine if they are feeling stressed from the storm. (Very small children may display developmentally inappropriate or delayed behavior which may require medical or psychiatric intervention). School age kids need to talk, draw or take positive action, (like kids who didn’t lose their homes hosting a lemonade stand to raise money for kids just like them who lost everything during the disaster). If you give them something to do to help, they can take positive action and sort through their emotions immediately.

High school age kids may try to act "cool", yet are often more scared about the changes and losses than any other group. They may need to experience a bit more "reality" at times to open up their ability to talk about what is happening around them. If the situation is stable enough, older teens can help in neighborhood clean up, which connects them to others in the important task of rebuilding after the storm. Another approach is to see if they are willing to talk with peers, siblings or family members, to build confidence in expressing their stressful emotions to others.

Be alert for dramatic changes in behavior, such as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ child before the storm who now continually watches world disasters on the news. Focus on any dramatic shifts in personality. Watch for major changes in sleep, dietary or appetite patterns, school performance, peer relations and so on. If you see major changes, seek professional assessment with a pediatrician, child behavioral specialist or psychologist. (See a full list of warning signs at

What are some ways to help kids talk about stress from natural disasters? Reach out to children on whichever level is most likely to connect. Talking, writing, drawing, even making up a song or puppet show about the impact of the disaster will lighten someone's emotional pain by watching or talking about their experience. Some families use newspapers as a discussion starter, since talking about any crisis event can help kids gain confidence to move from the panic of survival to move toward building strength after the storm.Are there “hidden media dangers” that make storm stress worse? Media overexposure is dangerous to kids, so avoid this by limiting TV news updates. Children or adults have experienced media overexposure when they show a depressed mood; or by going "numb" to normal emotions associated with stressful events, (e.g. no compassion or inappropriate laughter). Carefully sort through media outlets-like TV, Internet, radio or newspapers, to screen out stressful or inappropriate content that would be depressing to a child. Set boundaries during the rebuilding process to protect them from additional stress in media, since it is important to protect the safety of their home and minds by managing media exposure.

Watching catastrophic problems in other parts of the world can cause more stress in an already stressful situation because you don’t have power to control the very sad stories caused by these disasters. That’s why it is wise to move from a continual focus on negatives images during highly publicized disasters like the Haiti Earthquakes or Hurricane Katrina. Parents should sit down and discuss the impact of media and create limits on any stressful images that might further traumatize their children. Many families who were temporarily without electricity after a disaster discovered that not having the distractions of Internet, cable television, video games or loud music playing in their homes allowed them to reconnect as a family. Openly discuss these issues so that home becomes a more positive place with more energy to mange the stress from a natural disaster without making things harder from the hidden stress of media overexposure.

Is it okay to talk about what happened to our family with others? Silence is not golden in a critical incident, it's dangerous. One of the best things to help yourself as well as others is to tell your story. Talk about where you were when the storm hit. Use this same technique to help kids talk about how they made it through the natural disaster, then add the powerful element of sensory recall by asking about what the storm sounded like, smelled like, looked like, felt like or even tasted like! Listening to the stories of others who survived brings emotional recovery faster.

This is important for everyone involved, kids, grandparents, Mom, dads, teachers, students, pastors, employees, employers, firefighters, police officers, nurses and on and on. Everyone who has a story about how they survived a natural disaster can benefit by telling others. It helps them heal while giving others a chance to reconnect to the core values of faith, family, neighbors or coworkers in a powerful way. Also, don't forget to ask others how they are doing, including pastors and people helpers like counselors or nurses since many times these professionals are so busy reaching out to meet the needs of others, they neglect to take time to deal with the storm stress in their own life.

It's normal to be tired, worn out and stressed after a natural disaster however it's not okay to ignore caring for your own needs as a parent or people helper. Anyone impacted by major natural disaster may need to change their schedules for a while in order to take care of their own physical, spiritual and mental health. Helping kids is important, however if your caregiver tank is empty, let someone else help until your strength comes back. That's best for you and those you care about since it prevents the psychological burnout after a natural disaster caused by Storm Stress.

Reprint Permission- If this article was helpful you are invited to share it electronically or in print with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Please include the following statement in your reprint and thanks in advance for helping us to help others by spreading these counseling insights.

"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group eNews (Copyright, 2004-2010) Subscribe to this valuable counseling resource at " About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

4 Things You Can do Right Now to Combat Mild Depression


Laura Hull, LMFT

Coping Coach


“Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” -'The Road Less Traveled”


This statement by M. Scott Peck is profound.  But for many, this statement is hard to internalize.  Life is difficult, and with difficulty can come uncertainty and at times, sadness.  Everyone experiences sadness, grief or depression at some point.  Assuming we live long enough, life throws things in our direction that can, at the very least, wound us enough to cause pain that makes it difficult to experience joy.  At other times, the trials of life can bring us to our knees, making it a herculean task to even get out of bed or go any length of time without crying our eyes out.  Life happens to everyone.  We lose loved ones to death, we experience the loss of relationships for various reasons, people and circumstances we are invested in and count on let us down.  It happens to everyone.  Most people who experience depression tied to specific events (loss of loved ones, divorce, job losses, and things of this ilk) go through a period of time where they struggle with feelings of depression, but ultimately time helps the process, wounds heal, normalcy is restored and life moves on.  Others experience severe depression tied to chemical imbalances, genetically driven mental illness or severely traumatic events.  These individuals often need medical intervention and long-term counseling.  The focus of this article is for the individuals who fall in the middle….mild to moderate depression that impacts mood and potentially, happiness.


For individuals struggling with feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed with their circumstances, there are some specific things I recommend to those I counsel who feel “stuck” and are struggling with “the blues”:


  1. Spend some time outdoors, particularly on a sunny morning.   According to WebMD (Dec, 5, 2002) “A sunny day may do more than just boost your mood -- it may increase levels of a natural antidepressant in the brain. A new study shows that the brain produces more of the mood-lifting chemical serotonin on sunny days than on darker days.  Researchers found that regardless of the season, the turnover of serotonin in the brain was affected by the amount of sunlight on any given day. And the levels of serotonin were higher on bright days than on overcast or cloudy ones. In fact, the rate of serotonin production in the brain was directly related to the duration of bright sunlight.” Those of us who are reading this article from sunny Florida are blessed with an abundant amount of sunshine.  Because sunlight naturally boosts serotonin, many people find it helpful to spend time outdoors in the mornings (before the heat of the day kicks in). Whether it is taking a walk or simply sitting on a park bench, being outdoors can help elevate our mood.  If you are struggling with mild depression, make a point to incorporate outside time into each day.
  2. Exercise now.  It’s hard to muster the energy to exercise when experiencing the fatigue that often goes along with mild depression.  This will take a deliberate effort on your part and a determination to do the things that can potentially combat depression.  In a study published by Harvard Medical School, the effects of exercise on mild to moderate depression were impressive.  A study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms.  How does exercise relieve depression? For many years, experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.” ( Please understand that combating depression does not require becoming a world-class athlete.  But becoming physically active, at least a few days a week can be a key ingredient of self-help in many ways.  Motivation may be an issue at first.  But over time, exercise does have the potential to impact mood in a positive way.  As an added bonus, many forms of exercise require us to leave the four walls of our homes or office space, which does seem to help, as well.  Getting out and getting engaged in physical activities will likely make us more motivated at some point to engage more with others (also potentially a nice mood elevator in many ways).
  3. Seek counseling.  Let’s be honest.  We’ve all had times (regardless of how good our lives have been overall) where we could have benefitted from counseling to help us through a rough patch.  It can be very comforting and empowering to bring our issues into a counseling setting, and work through those issues with someone who is caring and educated in our struggles, without fear of repercussions in our personal or professional relationships.  Oftentimes, just talking with someone in the safety of a counseling office can be a very freeing experience.  A counselor may be in a position to offer insights or perspective that could aid the process of working through the issues that are impacting our lives in negative ways.
  4. Have a medical evaluation.  If at least some relief has not been experienced by the above recommendation, an exam by a physician may be in order, particularly if a thorough, overall physical exam has not been performed in a long time.  Some physical conditions, such as thyroid problems (which are treatable), can cause depression and fatigue.  Additionally, a physician is the only one who can make the determination of whether or not mood-altering medications should be considered.  Even if this is the case, this is usually only temporary, and certainly not anything to be embarrassed about.

Though we all experience sadness at some points in our lives, it is important to recognize when we have become “stuck” in those feelings and address the issue.  Life is hard at times.  This is a great truth.  Life is short…this is an even greater truth.  The ability to be happy is within all of us.  Don’t give away your joy.


The Emotional Suffering of Grief

Brian M. Murray, M.S. IMH

Having to say goodbye to a loved one can be one of the most difficult situations a person is faced with. Grieving can be very difficult for someone who is trying to come to grips with the meaning of the loss and the emotions they are experiencing. Strong attachments to others are not easy to let go of, and grieving loss is not limited to the death of a loved one. Emotional suffering can come due to the loss of something in our lives such as a job, health, a pet, a friend or even experiencing a serious life event that leads to the loss of future dreams. The one common denominator is that loss is experienced through the processing of strong emotions and over a period of time.

Grief is commonly recognized as having 5 stages as introduced by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. As an expert on grief, she explained that these 5 stages are what a person goes through when dealing with loss:

1.      Denial and isolation

2.      Anger

3.      Depression

4.      Bargaining

5.      Acceptance


These stages are not experienced in any specific order except for the 5th and final stage, acceptance. At any time, one stage may become predominant and unless it gets processed through, a person can get stuck or hung up trying to heal through that stage. While there is no time limit for the grieving process, someone who becomes “stuck” in a stage may have difficulty reaching the 5th and final stage of acceptance. Acceptance does not mean a person forgets, but that they have processed through the loss and they can reasonably continue with their life.

Grieving is a normal process that allows a person the chance to heal. Additionally, not all the stages have to be experienced in order to heal. Beyond the 5 stages some physical symptoms may occur as well such as fatigue, nausea and weight loss. Additional feelings such as fear, guilt and sadness are also common.

Awareness of the process of how a person grieves and that emotional suffering is part of the process serves to validate common feelings and helps normalize the experience. So what can a person do to help deal with these feelings? Here are a few suggestions of how a person can begin to work though the grieving process.

·         Get support from family, friends and a support group. Finding a good support group is very beneficial as it helps the person to know they are not alone and not the only one going through this experience. Groups can help offer insight.

·         Turn to faith and God to find reconciliation for the loss through prayer, meditation and practice. Often, getting back into the routine of faith practices can bring a sense of normalcy to daily living.

·         Find a way to articulate thoughts and feelings regarding the loss through artistic expression. This can be done through journal writing, artwork such as drawing, painting and pottery, scrapbooking or some other creative way. The idea is to process through the emotions while conducting the task. Make it unique and make it yours.

·         Take care of your body. Physical activities such as walking, and proper diet can help your body reduce stress. Sleep is important; take measures to get enough rest and sleep. Having a daily routine for daily living can be very beneficial.


Depression: An Area of Special Concern

Suffering a major loss can create a trigger for depression. As previously mentioned, a person can become stuck in their grief, with depression often being the most difficult stage to process through. Someone who is stuck in depression can begin to experience difficulties associated with the depression as well as the whole grieving process. When a person recognizes that they might be struggling with depression, it is important to seek treatment. The sooner they receive treatment, the better the outcome. Do not hesitate to contact a health professional such as a medical doctor or counselor.

There are signs that indicate when depression is worsening and reaching a point where help is needed:

·         Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death or wishing you had died with the loved one. 

·         Difficulty functioning or concentrating at home with family, at work, school or other areas of social involvement.

·         Not wanting to get out of bed and face the day, slow movement, body aches and wanting to isolate. Insomnia may occur as well.

·         Frequent or heavy substance use in order to cope with negative feelings. Using substances often makes the depression worse.

·         Strong sense of guilt or self blame for the loss, feeling hopeless and/or worthless.

·         Sudden onset and rapid changes in weight - putting on or losing.

Suffering and grief do not have to be endured alone. Seek professional help, support groups, family and friends to help get through the process. Leaving major depression untreated can also lead to other health problems so it is important to get proper treatment as soon as possible.