My daughter's first panic attack

Can you make out the words on this note written by my 10-year-old daughter?

It says, “I was absent on Tuesday, Feb. 26 because I had an anxiety attack.”

During the typical getting-ready-for-school chaos that morning, Brooklyn was feeling overwhelmed about a variety of things. The last straw was a missing shoe (isn’t it funny how the smallest things can be the biggest triggers?)

She cracked. The tears flowed. She began hyper-ventilating. She felt paralyzed by the idea of walking into school. So, we let her stay home. We de-briefed. We wrote down a list of coping skills that she now keeps a photo of on her phone. There was no shaming, no blaming, and no exasperation. I wanted to normalize this experience for her.

She is learning that we all get overwhelmed sometimes, we all feel paralyzed sometimes, and we all want to give up sometimes. She is learning that our emotions are communicators and when we try to smother and shroud our emotions without addressing the root of them, we can wind up broken. 💔

What’s stunning to me is that I did not coach her on the wording of this note at all. Brooklyn knew she would need an absence note and she wrote this herself, and brought it to her dad to sign. Questions like “should I be telling my teacher about this/what will she think of me/what if the other kids find out” did not enter her mind. Or I guess, if they did, she didn’t care 🙌🏻

I’m so dang proud of her 💙

This next generation of kids being raised up in our country - my hope and wish is that they will have NO hesitation in speaking up about their mental health symptoms and needs AND THEN GETTING HELP FOR THEM ✨ I hope we all come to understand that an anxiety-free life is not realistic. So, let’s talk about it more. Let’s be open and honest and vulnerable (with the right people) about our struggles and our hearts. Let’s be strong for each other. Especially our kids 💙

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Some thoughts on Self-Care

The best form of mental health treatment is prevention, agreed?

I am a firm believer that one of the best forms of self-care is setting boundaries with our time and one mode of anxiety prevention is utilizing solid time management skills.

A common theme I hear from patients is that they are overwhelmed with their long to-do list. From work to home to kids to relationships to exercise/nutrition to socializing to hobbies, it’s hard to fit everything in and lead a balance life. (Mental health professionals are sometimes the worst examples of how to live a balanced life!). We wear ‘busy’ as a badge of honor, yet setting poor boundaries with our time and a chronically unbalanced life can leave us feeling unfulfilled, stagnant, and weary.

When we feel this way, it’s natural to crave relief. Relief can take many forms - a mental health day off work, a massage and facial, a couple episodes of our favorite show on Netflix, happy hour with co-workers, or a big bowl of Graeter’s. If we’re not careful, we can take our relief techniques and turn them into maladaptive coping mechanisms.

Consider these tips when it comes to self-care through setting boundaries with our time:

Learn when it’s appropriate to say “no thanks” or “maybe next time” to an invitation. Rehearse ahead of time the answer you will give when you are invited to an event or activity that you know will drain you, or will make you feel overwhelmed.

Keep the long-term in mind. Doing something that makes you feel good in the moment (spending spree!) but that will make you feel stressed later (overdrawn bank account!) is NOT true self-care.

Make a list of the 3 most important areas of your life. What are your passions? What are your priorities? What are your goals? From this point on, when you get an invitation for your time - if it doesn’t fall into one of those 3 areas, give yourself permission to say ‘no.’ Feed your passion with your time.

Let’s create a life of buffer and care for ourselves through healthy choices in how we spend our time.

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