The holiday season is officially here and with that comes our never-ending to-do lists leading to an increase in stress for most of us. Those who struggle with anxiety may be wondering how they are going to make it through the next month. Possibly, some of us are even feeling a sense of dread instead of the elusive holiday cheer.
If you’re someone who does feel anxious or more stressed this time of year, fear not. There is hope! There are many simple things you can do to help reduce your stress and anxiety so that you can enjoy spending the holidays with your loved ones.
5 TIPS FOR REDUCING HOLIDAY STRESS AND ANXIETY
1. Practice Mindfulness
To practice mindfulness means to increase your awareness of the present moment. It’s focusing on the here and now.
There are many ways to do this, but the simplest way is to breathe. Taking deep breaths helps you get enough oxygen into your body to help it function at its best. Without enough oxygen, stress can build up leading to physical ailments like heart problems, stomach aches, and trouble sleeping. If you can incorporate 5 minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine, you’ll more than likely notice a difference in your stress level after just a few days.
More Mindfulness Stategies:
listening to music
focus on your 5 senses
Check out The Mayo Clinic for more mindfulness exercises and how they can help you manage holiday stress.
2. Ask For Help
Most moms tend to struggle with this. I think it’s because society puts pressure on us to do it all and we’re afraid that we might look weak if we can’t. But that’s not true! As you’ve probably heard before,
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
That means that none of us can do it on our own. We just have to learn how to reach out for help without feeling guilty about it. In my experience, when I have asked my friends to help by grabbing something for me from the grocery store or watching my kids for an hour or two while I go to a Dr’s appointment, they have actually been more than willing to help.
Helping others actually makes people feel better about themselves and anyone who is a good friend will want to help you when they can. Plus you can return the favor and help them in the future.
3. Set Boundaries
During the holidays, it can be easy to fill up your social calendar almost every day of the week. Not only are there parties and family gatherings, but you may feel pressure to participate in every food drive or cookie exchange. There are also more community events this time of year like tree lightings and holiday programs at your church or school. Then you have to factor in the time it takes to get your holiday shopping done, write and send out cards, and decorate your home.
There just isn’t enough time to do everything! So we have to say “No” to some things. You may get pushback from family or friends if you decide not to send out holiday cards this year, but that’s ok. You can always send them out for New Years or try again next year to do them earlier when you have more time.
4. Take A Technology Break
We live in a society that expects us to be “on” 24/7. Not only do people want us to answer their texts and phone calls right away, but we’re also constantly being bombarded by new information on social media. Sometimes we just need a day or even a few hours to shut off our devices and unplug from it all.
I purposely leave my phone at home when I exercise because it’s usually the only time I can get a break. If I don’t do this occasionally I find myself getting easily overwhelmed, especially during the holidays. Another idea is to put your phone in another room and turn it on silent for a set amount of time. I know this can be really challenging, but I assure you the phone call or text can wait a few minutes.
5. Be Proactive
Building in time to your schedule for self-care is crucial this time of year, especially for those who struggle with anxiety. I suggest looking at your calendar at least once a week and finding time to exercise. Even if this means 15 minutes of yoga or going for a quick walk. I would even go as far as writing this time down in your calendar so that you are more likely to honor the commitment to yourself.
It’s also important to be aware of what you’re eating and drinking. Limiting your consumption of alcohol and sweets can be challenging with all of the parties and social gatherings this time of year. But having a plan for how you’re going to handle these situations ahead of time can be really helpful. Also, remember that it’s ok to say no even when it’s really tempting to give in. Practicing this with a friend or partner ahead of time can make these difficult situations a little easier to handle.
If you don’t have a support network to help, counseling is another great option for managing holiday stress! I’d be happy to help you figure out if it might be an appropriate time to seek counseling. I offer a free 10 minute phone consultation where we can determine if the services I provide would be a good fit.
Being a mom during the pandemic has brought its challenges for all of us. But if we can stop to take a minute to think about what we have learned before we go back to the busyness of life we may realize that it hasn’t all been for nothing.
When looking back over the past year about what I’ve learned, I can see that I’ve grown so much. The pandemic has been a life-changing experience for me. If it weren’t for us being on lockdown last year I may have never gotten to the point of depression where I finally admitted that I needed to take medication. I don’t know if it was the potential for losing someone or if it was the anxiety about whether or not we would get Covid every time we left the house. But I do know that the pandemic triggered something in me that made me feel helpless and hopeless at times.
As hard as it is for me to share this I think people need to know. if you’re in a dark depression, more than likely you may not be aware of it. You may not be aware of the potential for happiness. You may not be aware of what you’ve been missing.
That’s why I think my story is worth sharing.
It’s worth the risk of people looking at me differently. It’s worth the risk of hearing people say “Why were you depressed? But you’re beautiful and you have two beautiful children!”
Because somewhere out there may be someone that isn’t aware of the life they could be living if they accept that they need help. I recently discovered that when you’re in survival mode your brain cannot scientifically process emotion in a healthy way. When you’re responding with a fight or flight response you’re not thinking the way you would if you were calm and balanced. That’s what medication can do for you. It can give you the strength and mental clarity that you need to get back on the right track. So that you can then work through your problems or the traumas that you’ve experienced in your past.
You could spend hundreds of dollars going to see a therapist learning all kinds of coping skills, but if your brain isn’t able to process that information it won’t do you that much good. If the part of your brain that controls your behavior can’t connect with the part that controls your thoughts then you’ll never be able to take the steps that you need to actually live a happier life. Luckily for me I’ve found a good combination of medication and therapy that has enabled me to do the work that I need to do. Now I can focus on learning the coping skills that I need to move through and enjoy life happily.
I asked a few of my mom blogger friends what they learned about themselves over the past year and this is what they had to say.
6 Mom Bloggers Share What They Learned During The Pandemic
Jasmyn of Just Jass
What 2020 taught me was that we shouldn’t keep waiting to pursue something that we have been wanting to do! So many people had told me to start a blog and it took me 6 months and a pandemic to finally hit the launch button!
I’m so glad that I did because my blog has already presented me with so many opportunities and I’m getting to do something I love which is writing! As a SAHM, it has given me something to do other than being a mom. This has ultimately made me a much happier person to be around!
Check out Jasmyn’s blog Just Jass for more about her journey as a stay at home mom as well as tips and tricks on pregnancy and newborns.
Kelly at Mini Mischief Managed
After lock down, I was just as disappointed as my kids that the summer would not include the events, play dates, and scheduled activities we had grown used to. I was ready for a break from being the main entertainment for a three year old and twin one year olds. I was ready to have some of my activities back where I would recharge from the time with them all day.
When it was clear summer would look nothing like what we hoped, I did two things:
First, I let go of having a schedule and planning to do certain things each day. We went with the flow of how we were feeling, what the weather was like, and what sounded like fun. It was hard not to have the social interaction I was used to, but also nice to take each hour and day at the pace we wanted, without always considering timelines.
Second, I knew I needed something that wasn’t 100% kid focused to spend time on. Many of my hobbies before kids did not translate well to having kids around due to materials involved, set up, and time required. I needed to find something new that could be done at home. As an avid reader, an unofficial bucket list item has always been to write a book someday. Writing a book fit all my above criteria.
In November 2020 I published my book, “15 Ways For New Moms To Manage Stress & Stay Sane”. This book became a way to document and remember many of the things I did every day as I parented three kids under age three for over a year. It was also a way to connect new moms navigating the parenting world with the help and social support we were used to getting at a time they didn’t have access to it.
The journey wasn’t easy, but I loved having a finished project to show for the time frame when the pandemic affected so much in our lives. As humans, we are resilient; and as moms, we are some of the best at adapting. The best way to start is mentally re-framing your situation to what you can accomplish, and go from there!
Thanks Kelly for sharing your insight. You can follow her and join her online community over at Mini Mischief Managed.
Natasha from Mamahood Mindset
My little boy was just 10 months old when the pandemic hit and we were thrown into our first lockdown. Little did we know it would be a year of repetitive lockdowns and restrictions. As a stay at home mum whose partner continued to go to work, it has been a tough time with lots of challenges.
But amongst the challenges of having nowhere to go, I have learnt so much about mindset and how it can have a huge impact on our day.
I have come to understand how an affirmation can change your beliefs on a subconscious level and therefore change how you feel about a situation. Affirmations have helped me deal with:
Dealing with feeling as though I never achieve anything in the day.
Helping with anxious thoughts.
Feeling as though I always need to be doing something
Fighting against mum guilt.
Gratitude has helped me to see the good that is in my life. To be thankful for where I am and what I have. It has helped to lift my mood and has left me feeling happy with where I am in life.
Lockdown has shown me so much about myself and has set me off on a mindset journey that I am still learning from and enjoying. It has changed the way I think and has made me stronger. It has also changed the direction of my blog, and following a re-brand all about mindset and self care.
The pandemic has taught me that life shouldn’t have to revolve around work. I have come out of the past year as a stay at home mom. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I want from life. When I look back on my life, what will I be glad to have done?
For me, I don’t want to miss out on my daughter’s milestones and stages before she starts school. I feel like I would miss out on this by returning to work, because I was finishing as late as 6pm. By the time I would get back that would mean missing a whole day with my child. I’d have to settle her to bed and then do it all over again the next day.
I had a lot of time while furloughed and then on maternity leave to see how life would be. It helped me to come to the best decision for me. There is no right or wrong to whether anyone becomes a stay at home mom. I just know that there is the best decision for everyone. Only we can decide what that is. So many jobs require a lot of hours, then add the commute and it feels like your life has to revolve around work.
The pandemic allowed companies to have people working in a different way. To work from home and here in the UK, jobs are still having people work from home mostly. It shows that things could change. We don’t need to spend a lot of time working in a set place and having to commute each work day. Depending on the role, we can work from home. It is so nice that many people have been at home more with their families. I feel like this would be so beneficial if it could happen more, no matter how little the steps.
Being at home every step of the way so far with my daughter has been incredible. My daughter Birdie is 7 months old now and she loves getting plenty of interaction with those close to her. Nothing makes her happier more than just having me there, smiling and playing with her. The lockdown did impact her ability to adjust to others. Now that things have eased, it is valuable to bring Birdie to baby groups. To enjoy play dates with other babies and people. It’s such a special time.
Yasmin’s blog is Lovely_MommaLife. Make sure to head over there to read more about her life as a stay at home mom and for some tips on self love.
Robyn at A Dime Saved
I learned that so much of parenting is in the attitude. If you make it fun, then it is fun. Your kids don’t need camp or fun vacations- if you make something exciting, they will think it’s exciting.
Kids don’t care how stupid or silly an activity is. They care that you are trying to have fun with them. When our kids look back at this period, they will remember all the fun family activities we did with them. They will not forget that we were positive and focused on our family, even when there was so much that we couldn’t do.
Creating positive memories for my kids- no matter the circumstances – is the most important thing to me. Not only is it fun, but it gives them a sense of security. No matter how crazy the world is- we can still have a good time as a family.
Our kids can do without a lot of things if they need to. We think they need a lot of stuff and a lot of stimulation. But the fact is that if kids have a loving environment, then that is enough.
Check out Robyns blog A Dime Saved for tons of fun activities that you can do with your family.
Subarna at The Mommys Corner
Indeed this pandemic has taught us a lot. Our lives have been changed. We all went through a tough situation but it has taught us many life lessons that we kept on ignoring earlier. By God’s grace, we are doing well and I am thankful for that.
In my life, there is a sunny side to this darkness. I launched my blog last summer and it is going to be 1 year old very soon. I was a web developer before being a stay-at-home mom and I always wished to have my little corner on this internet. So I fulfilled my dream and started my blog TheMommysCorner. We often give excuses that we don’t have much time to pursue our dreams but it’s not true. We have enough time, but we lack enough desire to pursue our dreams.
What did you learn about yourself during the pandemic? Have you stopped to think about it? If so, we’d love for you to share your experience in the comments.
Ok so I know that phrase, “It’s ok to not be ok” is trending, but what does it really mean? For me, it means that it’s ok to admit that I can’t do it alone anymore. It’s ok for me to get help with depression and anxiety. The more I talk about it, the more I realize how many other moms with depression and anxiety there are.
I’ve struggled off and on with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know this. It wasn’t until the past few years, that I accepted that it’s ok to admit it though. I spent so many years wanting to help others escape the pain of depression and anxiety, but I didn’t fully face my own issues until recently.
What that looked like for me was admitting that even though I had a Master’s degree in counseling, it was still ok to need counseling myself. For so many years, I found excuses for avoiding it. I have probably made every excuse in the book.
My Excuses Were:
It costs too much.
What if someone finds out?
There aren’t any counselors that I don’t already know.
What if they think I’m crazy?
I don’t have enough time.
What if I don’t like them?
I don’t need to pay someone to tell me to do what I already know I need to do.
But let me tell you this, now that I have found a counselor that I really like and the right combination of medicine, my only regret is not starting it sooner. A friend recently said that she wished when she had her first child that someone had pushed her a little harder to start antidepressant medication. Now that she’s on it, she can see how much it’s helping her.
Another friend said that once she started taking anti-depressants she thought, “Wow, is this how good everyone else feels? I had no idea how depressed I was before!”
Moms with depression can feel too overwhelmed to get help.
I know how hard it is to get yourself out of bed some days. Making yourself go through the motions to get your kids to school and make sure your house doesn’t burn down can be exhausting to any mom. Add depression to the mix, and it can feel almost impossible. So I get why reaching out for help can be the last thing you want to do. I promise it will be worth it.
Depression and anxiety can also make you think you’re a bad mom. If you’re already feeling worthless and hopeless, having kids who seem to never be satisfied can make you feel like you’re never enough. For some strange reason, there is a societal pressure to be super mom. We’re expected to get up at 5 am just so we can shower, wash our hair, put on a fresh face, pack our kids organic lunches, and send them off to school with bows in their hair and a smile.
If you struggle with anxiety, you already know that you second guess every decision you make. If you don’t you probably spend alot of your time comparing yourself to every other mom, wondering if you’re doing a good enough job. But I promise you, if you are keeping your kids fed and dressed (even if that means they wear pjs all day while doing virtual school), you are enough! If you’re feeling like you just can’t do it anymore though, that’s ok too.
Just because it’s ok to feel that way, to not feel ok or like you can’t provide your kids their basic needs anymore, doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Learn from my mistakes and admit defeat before you spend one more day suffering.
Reach Out For Help
If you don’t know where to begin, just try. Call your mom or call your best friend and tell them that you’re riding the struggle bus. I promise you that you are not alone.
The more you talk about how hard being a mom is, the more you will find that you aren’t the only one who struggles.
If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to reach out for help either way. Even if the sadness or other emotions you’re feeling are not depression, it’s still ok to talk to a therapist. Or find a friend that you can share how you’re feeling with. If you don’t have a friend that you feel comfortable talking to, I’m always here to listen!
Make sure to share this post with other moms with depression and anxiety so they can see that they aren’t alone!
You might not be surprised to hear that the rate of people who are experiencing anxiety has increased over the past year. It’s not hard to imagine why this would be the case given the uncertainty we’ve all been facing.
Even though kids are less likely to get COVID they are still feeling the stress of it, like the rest of us. I do believe that kids are resilient, but I also think they’re feeling anxious more than we realize.
When I heard this, I started thinking about some of the challenges we’ve been facing in our house.
For example, my son has been waking up in the middle of the night more often over the past few months. He comes in our bedroom saying that he’s scared and ends up sleeping with us. While this could be attributed to a number of things, part of me wonders if it’s related to the pandemic. He’s also regressed a little bit and gone back to showing some symptoms of separation anxiety.
He doesn’t want to go upstairs in our house without an adult. Some separation anxiety is typical for young kids, but he had kind of grown out of that before the pandemic.
He used to feel comfortable going anywhere in our house as long as his older brother was with him. Now he waits on the stairs for me to go with him even to grab something from his bedroom.
Using Art To Talk About Feelings
As a former play therapist, I’m always thinking about ways to get my kids to use art or play to show me what they’re feeling. When I recently attended a training on childhood anxiety, I was reminded about how kids need things to be tangible. They don’t always have the language developed yet to tell you how they’re feeling. So giving them a way to show you what they’re thinking or feeling gives them what they need to communicate that with you.
When I asked my son the other day to tell me why he didn’t want to go in the bathroom without me, he said it was because he was afraid of monsters. Instead of saying, “But you know monsters aren’t real,” I asked him to tell me more about it.
He wasn’t really able to tell me what the monster looked like, but I could tell he was trying to describe it. He paused for a moment and said that it was hard to describe. Then about 5 minutes later, he told me that it wasn’t a monster it was a bug.
I asked him if he could draw a picture of it, but he said he didn’t want to. I didn’t push him too hard, because I knew that wouldn’t help. So we talked about how he knows Taekwondo and he can fight any monsters that come around.
I also reminded him that if there are any bugs in our house, they are probably going to be tiny and he’s so much bigger than them. He kept asking me questions about bugs over the next few days. Anytime he did I answered them of course. The cool thing that happened was he slept through the night for a few days.
I also asked my other son to draw a picture of something he worries about. He doesn’t want me to share his picture, and I’m going to respect that. I was surprised to find out what he drew though and was able to give him some reassurance.
Name It To Tame It
What I’ve learned about anxiety is that talking about it doesn’t make it worse. In order to learn to manage it, you have to understand what’s causing it. That means figuring out what is causing the fear or worry, and then learning how to cope with it.
Prior to going back to school in October, my kids had been at home with me all day every day for 7 months. We weren’t really going anywhere and spending much time with friends. So naturally, they were more comfortable at home with me. It would be normal for going back to school face to face to trigger some anxiety for them.
The New Normal
Then when they did go back to school in October, there were all these new rules. Changes had to be made to keep everyone safe and school doesn’t look like it used to. Their old routines have been disrupted. Now they have to wear masks and sit further apart from their friends. Some of their friends aren’t even in the building!
My kids told me about a really cool game they play at recess where they use a pool noodle for tag. Instead of tagging each other, they touch them with a pool noodle. Even though this isn’t a negative thing, it’s still something different that they have to adjust to. They’re also only allowed to play with kids in their class at recess in a certain section of the playground. Every other year, they could play wherever they wanted and with kids from other classes in their grade.
To make matters worse, my kids have heard the grown-ups in their life talking about COVID and how many people have gotten it. Despite how much we’ve tried to protect them from the bad news, I’m sure they have overheard us talking about it.
The more you think about it, the more obvious it is why kids are more anxious.
We also have to remember how literal kids’ thinking is. It’s very black and white. So if your child hears you talking about how many people have died from COVID, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to automatically think their parents might die if they get it.
This is another reason why we need to be careful about what we say in front of our kids. I’ve tried really hard to remind my kids that even if mommy or daddy get COVID, we’ll probably just get sick. We’re healthy and we don’t have any pre-existing health conditions. But it’s not that easy for kids to make that connection if you don’t reassure them.
My Anxiety Monster
I also did the art activity that I referenced earl myself. I was surprised what came to my mind when I started drawing my anxiety monster. What I thought of when I was drawing it is how stressed and tired my anxiety makes me feel sometimes.
I started drawing my monster to be an old person with crazy hair, but then had a memory about when I was a kid and watched the movie Signs. There’s a scene in that movie where an alien crosses across the screen briefly. That part always freaked me out!
I think that drawing my anxiety monster brought out some fears that I have been trying to avoid thinking about for a long time! When I was a kid, I remember being afraid that aliens would come and abduct me in my sleep. Luckily I no longer have that fear, but apparently it’s still something that comes up for me sometimes!
The uncertainty and constant changes we’ve been facing over the past year have led to added stress for all of us. Some people may be better at hiding it than others, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been affected in one way or another.
I’ve personally been pretty proud of how well my kids have adjusted and adapted to all this uncertainty! Our school has gone back and forth from virtual school to in-person multiple times this year. Some weeks that change has come unexpectedly, and everyone has had to quickly adjust.
Thank goodness kids are resilient.
At the same time, that constant need to adapt and change their routine has been hard on them! So no wonder the rate of childhood anxiety is going up.
The good news is that there is hope. Taking time to talk to your kids about how they feel and empowering them to cope with their fears can help.
Strategies For Managing Anxiety In Kids
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There are tons of books that can help you start a conversation with your child about what’s causing their anxiety. Here are a few of my favorite:
My Monster and Me by Nadiya Hussain
Penelope Perfect by Shannon Anderson
Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook
Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt
Worry Says What by Allison Edwards
Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
These are great workbooks for parents to do at home with their kids.
Worry Wars: An Anxiety Workbook for Kids and Their Special Adult by Paris Goodyear Brown
What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kids Guide To Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner
Worry Stone: When my son was having issues with anxiety about going to school last year his school counselor gave him a strategy that really helped him! She gave him a worry stone that he kept in his pocket and could hold when he was starting to get upset. He carried it everywhere and it really helped him a lot!
Worry Pet: Here’s a really cool similar strategy. If you’re feeling crafty, you and your child can make a worry pet. They can use take it to school to remind them to use their calm down strategies when they’re feeling anxious. It also helps them know that they have something friendly in their bag in case they need it.
Homemade Play Doh: You can make play doh with your kids and add soothing essential oils like lavender. Playing with play doh is a great way to pound out your frustrations or stress! Here’s one recipe for Calming Homemade Playdough by Brandi Brown.
Worry Worms– This is a great way for your child to tell you about what their worries are without even realizing it. It’s adapted from Paris Goodyear Brown’s book Worry Wars and an activity I used often with my play therapy clients. All you have to do is make worms out of construction paper and hide them around your house. Every time your child finds a worm, they have to tell you something they worry about. It’s an easy way to get the conversation about anxiety going with your child.
Here are 40+ Mindfulness Activities by fellow mom blogger Alice at Mommy to Mom. She breaks them down by age and even has some ideas for teaching mindfulness to your babies!
We love doing Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube. There are some really fun videos like Pokemon, Minecraft, and Harry Potter that are great for little boys. They have tons of different ones for every age and interest though.
Calm Down Glitter Jar: This article from Kumarah Yoga teaches you how to make a calm down glitter jar. Depending on how flexible their teacher is, this is another strategy that your child could use a school.
If your child is experiencing anxiety or worry to the point where you feel like it’s beyond something you can help them with please make sure to seek professional help.
If you’re unsure if your child is anxious, here are a few common symptoms of anxiety in kids to look out for:
Difficulty sleeping or frequently waking up in the middle of the night (after already sleeping through the night).
Frequent stomach aches without an underlying medical reason.
Clinginess to parents or becoming really upset when having to separate from caregiver.
Explosive outbursts- this can sometimes be misinterpreted as misbehavior.
Difficulty sitting still and/or constantly fidgeting.
These aren’t the only indicators that a child is anxious. Sometimes it can be hard to know if a child is struggling because many of the symptoms above can also be normal depending on their stage of development. Check out this article on Child Mind Institute for their advice on when to worry about an anxious child.
Calling your child’s pediatrician is always a great place to start. You can also find a registered play therapist on the Association For Play Therapy’s website here.
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If you’ve never actually been depressed yourself, it can be hard to know the right thing to say to someone else who’s going through it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help.
Sometimes when I go through periods of depression everything just feels so hard. It can be a struggle to do little things, like going to the grocery store to buy a carton of milk. Every little thing can feel so overwhelming and huge. Sometimes when my depression gets really bad, all I want to do is sleep. This can go on for days. Fortunately though, or maybe unfortunately- when I get like this I know it’s going to get better, because I’ve been through it before.
Hope Shines Brightest In The Darkness
It’s not always easy, but I can usually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it feels so far away and sometimes it does take time to get there. I’m not sure how much easier that really makes it, but it does give me a small amount of hope. And when my depression gets really bad, any tiny little bit of hope is enough to get me through to the next day.
I was going through a dark period like this last week. I’m not sure what exactly it was that helped me climb out of it, but I did. Maybe it was buying myself a really expensive pillow, or maybe it was going for a run on a beautiful day by the river. It could have been the friend I reached out to who said what I really needed to hear. Maybe it was the fact that I was able to get an appointment to see a psychiatrist so that I can hopefully get on the right medication. I’m sure it was actually a combination of all these things, but after I reached out to that one friend it felt like a turning point for me.
She was the cheerleader that I needed to get me out of my funk.
I’ve noticed how hard these episodes of depression can be on my family. And I can see how helpless they feel when they don’t know what else to do to help and they don’t feel like they know the right words to say. I’m sure other people feel the same, so I wanted to share some things that people have said that helped me. So that you can be the cheerleader that your loved one needs the next time they’re struggling.
8 THINGS TO SAY TO HELP WHEN SOMEONE IS DEPRESSED
1. It’s going to be ok.
2. I may not understand, but I’m here for you.
3. You are not alone.
Depression can feel SO isolating, but knowing that you don’t have to go through it alone can make a huge difference.
4. You matter to me.
5. Let’s go for a walk.
Get them out of the house. Being stuck inside is not good for someone who is depressed.
6. You are strong enough to get through this.
7. Even though you’re going through this, you are still a good mom.
Mom guilt is bad enough on a regular day, but when you’re depressed you feel like you’re not good enough. You get into a spiral of negative thinking and then of course you feel like a horrible mom. Check out my previous post here for some tips on getting through mom guilt.
8. It’s ok to not be ok.
These are some of the things you can say to help someone who is depressed. But in the end, showing that you care is what matters most.
If someone you know is struggling with depression, help them get the help they need. They don’t have to suffer! Psychology Today is a great resource for finding therapists in your area or they can always talk to their primary care doctor.
Maybe there’s someone you know who you think might be depressed, but you’re not really sure. Here are a few signs and symptoms of depression that might help you decide whether or not you should talk to them about it.
COMMON SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
They stop wanting to hang out as much as usual.
Avoiding your calls or texts.
Frequently canceling plans.
Their mind seems to be somewhere else.
Constantly focusing on the negative.
Having a hard time getting things done at work, school, or around the house.
Has lost interest in doing things they normally do.
Doesn’t want to get out of bed and/or thinks about going back to bed when they wake up in the morning.
Headaches and muscle pain or other physical symptoms without a medical reason.
Finding joy during the chaos of the holidays can be almost impossible sometimes. It’s easy to get so caught up in your to-do list that you forget the reason you’re celebrating in the first place.
The song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been playing on repeat in my head. It’s kind of like a slap in the face at times, because there’s a chance this year it really will be just me celebrating by myself. If we’re lucky, we may get to spend time with our immediate family, but it will be a little different. We won’t give each other hugs, and we’ll try to keep 6 feet apart.
There’s also a chance that I’ll be in quarantine in my bedroom if the COVID test I took on Friday comes back positive. It’s more than likely just a bad sinus infection for me, but there’s always that fear that I’ve got the virus.
Since so many other people are in the same boat, the testing sites are overcrowded with multiple hour waits. And test results that might normally be back in 3 days are taking 5. So my anxiety is a little bit ramped up right now.
Remember last year when I wrote about Managing Holiday Stress? Well on top of all the usual chaos of the holidays, this year we all get to add in more things to worry about.
For me the added stress is questioning:
Do I have COVID or is it just a bad cold?
Should we get together with our families?
If we do see our families for the holidays, what does that look like?
Should we order dinner so that we don’t have to worry about making everything and then having to change our plans at the last minute?
Is it safe to travel across state lines?
What about that one relative who doesn’t believe in wearing masks, are we going to take the risk and see them?
So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that stress levels are at an all time high for us all.
Despite these things, I truly believe it’s still possible to have a Merry Christmas this year. A few nights ago I watched the cheesy “chic flick” as my hubby likes to call them, “The Secret: Dare To Dream.” This movie is based on the book “The Secret'”, by Rhonda Byrne.
The book is about the idea of positive thinking and how each of us has the ability to impact the outcome of our lives with our thoughts. It was a good reminder to me that life really is what you make it. It may seem cliche or hoaky poaky to some of you, but I think that if you believe something in your heart, you really can influence the way that your life turns out.
The thing is, it’s all about perception.
Let me give you an example. I have two boys who are close to the same age (6 and 8). One of them seems to approach most things in life with a glass-half-empty point of view and the other is usually a little more optimistic.
I told a friend the other day that my oldest is my emo kid. My other son is super laid back and easy going. So when we deliver bad news to both of them, it seems like the older one immediately gets upset and starts to think the worst. The younger one, often responds with things like, “That’s ok. We can still have fun!”
A change in plans.
We found out last week that my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids won’t be able to come for Christmas this year due to increased COVID cases where we live and potential exposures within our immediate family. We’ve been looking forward to them coming for a few months. We were all optimistic that if we were extra careful, and stayed home the weeks leading up to the holidays they would be able to make it. But sometimes the best laid plans fall to pieces. Understandably, they decided that it’s too risky to travel from Texas to Georgia given everything going on.
I waited to tell my kids because I knew they would be disappointed. Plus the day I found out they weren’t coming was also the day of their holiday parties at school. They were super excited about being off for the Winter Break and I didn’t want to ruin that.
The next day, my oldest must have heard our conversations and figured out what was going on. Either that or he put two and two together when playdates started getting canceled, school had to switch to virtual learning, and we started avoiding playgrounds if there were any other kids there.
So he asked me if his cousins were still coming for Christmas. I had to tell him the truth and give him the bad news. I could see the disappointment in his eyes. So I gave him permission to be sad. I told him I was disappointed too, but told him that it just wasn’t safe to travel right now. He stormed off to his room and started crying. When I went in to talk to him, he said, “This is the worst day of my life!”
My 6 year old walked in a few minutes later and asked what was wrong. I explained that his cousins weren’t going to be able to come for Christmas and his response was, “Oh….Hey mom can you read me a book?” Then he tried to console his brother and said something about how we could still do other fun stuff right?
Both of my kids had valid responses to the situation and were disappointed, but one reacted with a more positive outlook than the other. Just like moms can also choose how to react to the chaos they may be experiencing right now- The chaos caused by all the uncertainty and fear that we’re facing.
You can choose to react with sadness, disappointment, and anger. You can choose to get angry about your circumstances and blame others for why things aren’t going the way you hoped.
Or you can choose joy.
You can celebrate the small things that are going right for your family. Celebrate that you can be together.
Find something small to be thankful for in each moment. It could be that you have food to eat for Christmas dinner. Even if it’s not the usual 5-course meal with all of your relatives. Maybe you can think of the bright side that you and your kids have more time to spend with each other this year rather than traveling from place to place to spend time with all the different sides of your family.
If you decide to see your family, you can be thankful that you get to spend the holidays with them. And you can celebrate the fact that you’re healthy enough to be together.
Moms, you can still make the holidays bright for your family this year, no matter what your individual circumstances are. Sometimes it’s hard to see the light in all the darkness, but if you take time to open your eyes you will. It’s there!
On that note, I’m going to be taking a few weeks off to reflect on 2020. As much as I just want to forget about this year altogether, it will be good to reflect on the good and the bad. How can I learn from my mistakes and parts of my life I want to improve if I don’t acknowledge them?
I’m not going to dwell on the past too much though. Since there was so much to be sad about this year, it will be more fun to focus on the future.
We’re all hoping that 2021 will be a better year. I think it’s looking like that’s entirely possible. Yes, I know the virus isn’t going away, but I have hope. I AM trying to put out positive thoughts that I want for 2021, remember?
What will you focus on this holiday season as we get ready to start a new year? Share in the comments how you’re going to celebrate joy and what you have to be merry about this holiday season.
My journey as a mom has been like a rollercoaster ride.
I’m happy to say that right now I feel like I’m coming to a smooth part of the ride. The part that’s after the thrill where you can sit back and enjoy the adrenaline high. The part where you don’t want it to end, but you know you’ll have to get off soon.
You might be wondering how this could be possible when we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Our world is filled with so much uncertainty, yet I’m feeling so good.
Back in March, this was definitely not the case. When quarantine started I was feeling ok. My 5-year-old had just broken his arm and needed surgery. We were stuck at home and I was forced to homeschool my kids.
My daily routine of getting up at 6:30, taking the kids to school, coming home to make a nice breakfast, going for a run or to a class at the gym, spending a few hours writing, cleaning up, and doing some laundry had all been thrown out the window.
I wasn’t even going to the grocery store anymore. I’d lost my girls’ nights out and couldn’t’ see my friends at playgroups or PTA meetings.
Despite all of this, I was still surviving and remained optimistic. I was getting my runs in when I could, but they slowly turned into walks.
Taking A Turn For The Worse
At some point, I started to have less energy. I’d drag myself out of bed in the morning, but I immediately couldn’t stop thinking about how good it would feel to go back to bed later that day.
I had no interest in playing with my kids. As the weeks went by, I was still going for my walks, but the whole time I was out walking I’d dread having to go back home.
I kept hearing from other moms and parenting experts that I needed to find a routine. They were saying that it would help us get through virtual learning and would help me feel better. I just didn’t have the energy to do it.
Then I started to dread everything. It felt like there’d never be anything to look forward to again. I felt so hopeless. I’m not going to say I lost hope, but I could see how some people in my situation could have.
Even though I had people all around me telling me how much they loved me, I just felt so sad.
Luckily, I had started going to a therapist right before all of this happened. So I had already built a relationship with her.
She had mentioned medication a few times in January when we first met. But I told her it wasn’t something I wanted to try. I’d tried medication before and didn’t like the way it made me feel.
As a good therapist should, she persisted. Finally one day, she pointed out that taking medication would be like giving me training wheels. It could help give me just enough motivation and energy to use the tools we were practicing during therapy.
How One Phone Call Can Mean So Much
Then a good friend called me. She’d noticed that I wasn’t the same and told me about her experience with medication. She told me how much it had helped her and gave me the name of her doctor.
I was able to get in the same week, and was started on an antidepressant right away. After just a few days, I started to have energy again. Then after a few weeks of taking it, I felt like another person.
During my therapy sessions, I started noticing myself falling into negative or anxious thought patterns again. This time my reaction was different though. I noticed when I was doing it and was able to stop myself. It finally dawned on me how that is the whole point of going to counseling!
There’s no magic pill that will solve all your problems. Taking medication was life-changing for me though.
Fighting The Resistance
It’s not easy to share my story with the world. But I know how long I resisted taking medications and how much it ended up helping me once I finally gave it another try. The only regret I have now is that I didn’t try it sooner.
Over the past few days, I’ve been hearing story after story of other moms struggling. I realized that if I let my fear of being vulnerable stop me from sharing, then I may be missing out on helping someone who really needs to hear that they aren’t alone.
On top of all our regular motherly duties we are juggling virtual learning, keeping our kids’ safe, making sure the masks are always clean, and trying to figure out a way to maintain a socially distant social life.
I don’t know what I would have done without my husband a few months ago. Not only did he remind me that my family needed me, but he took on many of the household tasks I usually did.
I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if I was working a full-time job on top of everything else.
It may seem like it’s easy for someone like me who is a former therapist to say how much it can help. But I’ve seen so many different counselors over the years, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I really felt like it was helping.
Part of that could be that it wasn’t the right fit. Or maybe I wasn’t doing the homework that I needed to really change. But I think this time, the medication really did give me the extra boost that I needed to move forward.
I’m not going to say that I’m completely cured. Medication isn’t the end all be all. There will still be hard days. Especially right now, with a pandemic that isn’t going away anytime soon.
My kids are going to be little for a while and are going to be needy. My free time will be limited and there will be other bumps and turns on the roller coaster along the way. There may even be times where the ride malfunctions and I’ll have to call for back up.
At least now I have this period where I’m feeling good to look back on. If I do start to spiral again, I’ll know that there is hope. I’ll be able to really say to myself this too shall pass and believe it.
If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. Even if you’ve tried getting help before and it didn’t seem to work. Try again!
I haven’t always been a runner though. I played basketball in high school and when our coach made us run suicides, I was always the last one to cross the line.
When I got to college, I realized I could go for a run without sprinting until I felt like I was going to puke. That’s when I found my love for running. I remember running through campus on Friday afternoons seeing all of the campers getting set up to tailgate during football season.
In the off season, I’d run with some of my friends to where the Florida Gator practice field was and sometimes we’d be lucky enough to see the players leaving the field. There are so many benefits to running that you wouldn’t think of. You can get to more places on foot than you can with a car!
Running To Explore
There have been times when we’ve been on vacation and my husband and I have run in places that we wouldn’t have normally seen if we didn’t go for a run. Once when we were in wine country, we ran for a few miles and explored some of the wineries we wanted to check out later.
There’s nothing like running down the Las Vegas strip before it gets too crowded. You will have to dodge a few homeless people and shameless promoters trying to shove their pamphlets down your throat. You can avoid some of it if you go early enough. If you get out before everyone wakes up from their hang overs, you won’t have to run as much of a maze dodging the sea of tourists.
In the summer you can find me running on the beach in the morning before it gets too hot. I love listening to the waves, the cool breeze next to the water, and the smell of the fresh salty air.
Running is good for bloggers too. Blogging can be really isolating at times. Being your own boss is awesome, most of the time, but sometimes it’s not.
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Somedays I wake up and I just can’t get motivated to write.
There are days when I literally want to crawl back into bed and get up on the other side to see if it feels any better. Sometimes it works, but that usually just makes me groggy and less motivated to write. On those days, the last thing I want to do is run! But if I can just get my shoes on and my butt out the door, that’s usually all it takes.
Once I get outside, I almost always end up running. It may only be for a mile or two sometimes, but even if I walk, I still feel better. Most of the time, I end up running more than I thought I could. I ALWAYS feel so much better after a run. Just being outside can be an instant mood lifter for me. I love the outdoors and need natural vitamin d to make it through my day.
I forget about all the stresses of mom life for a while.
I do some of my best thinking during my runs. Until recently, I ran without my phone because it helped me unplug for 30-40 minutes a few times a week. Then I got some pretty sweet headphones for Christmas, and I’ve grown to appreciate running with music. Sometimes I prefer to be alone with my thoughts though. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I just run.
HERE’S WHY RUNNING HELPS MOMS
1. HELPS YOU FOCUS ON YOURSELF
When you’re running, you can’t see how dirty your house is and you can’t do dishes, fold laundry, or vacuum the floors. You don’t have to wait on your children or break up fights. It’s just you and the road.
2. GETS YOUR ENDORPHINS FLOWING
Runners high is a real thing! Scientists did a study on runner’s brains and found that their prefrontal and limbic systems were releasing endorphins that led to feelings of euphoria and calmness. Apparently, exercising with others or listening to music when you’re alone can increase the spike of endorphins too!
3. INEXPENSIVE EXERCISE
Other than having to get a pair of good shoes, running doesn’t cost you a penny! You can run anywhere and you don’t have to pay crazy gym membership fees. Moms don’t like having to spend money on themselves so this is important!
4. MODELS HEALTHY BEHAVIOR FOR YOUR KIDS
Your kids learn from watching you. If they see you taking care of your body and making exercise a priority, they will hopefully eventually want to do it too.
5. GETS YOU OUT OF THE HOUSE
You know that feeling when you get after being stuck at home with a sick kid for 3 days in a row? I do and it’s not fun! Getting outside to run when it all passes gets me back on my feet. If I can get someone to watch the kids so I can get a break before then, I will quickly take advantage!
6. HELPS PREVENT DISEASE AND ILLNESS
Regular exercise can help reduce your risk for heart disease and several cancers including breast, colorectal, and uterine cancers. It also helps your body regulate its hormone levels which not only reduces your risk for developing cancer, but also helps improve your mood.
7. IMPROVES MEMORY
We all know that mom brain is a real thing, but a study by the mayo clinic has shown that regular exercise may reduce improve your memory and reduce your risk for Alzheimers disease!
8. YOU CAN RUN WITH FRIENDS
It can be hard to keep a conversation going while running, but moms need someone to vent to sometimes. Your running buddy can be your biggest support. If you don’t have one, there are usually running groups you can join in your area.
So get yourself a good pair of running shoes and hit the pavement. If you can’t run, go for a walk. I promise you getting your body moving is worth the effort and you will feel better, even if only temporarily!
Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days.
– Rob Haneisen
These are a few of the ways that running helps moms. If you’re looking for more ways to add in self-care into your daily routine, stay tuned. I will be featuring a series on self-care over the next few weeks. Make sure to follow @momlifewithp on Instagram so you don’t miss anything!
Living with anxiety is not new to me. In fact, I remember the first time I realized I might have it. We were going down the escalator in Macy’s at Lenox Mall. Anyone in Georgia knows that Lenox is the busiest mall in Atlanta. Nothing specific really happened to trigger my anxiety, other than the store being really crowded.
The details are kind of a blur. But I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of panic covering me like a blanket. I started feeling like I was in another place- like I was about to pass out.
It was like I was outside of my body physically, but I fully knew where I was in my head.
I remember saying something to my husband about how I didn’t feel right and then I started to get really upset. He looked at me like I was crazy, but once he realized I wasn’t joking he said something that made me snap out of it. I don’t remember what that was either, but I think it had something to do with reminding me to breathe.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I had a mini panic attack that day. I think I’ve always had some form of anxiety, but it’s changed as I’ve gotten older.
As long as I can remember, there have been periods where I’ve had trouble sleeping. As a little girl, everything had to be just right in my room in order for me to fall asleep. My stuffed animals had to be in a specific spot and the bathroom light in the hallway had to be on with the door opened just a crack.
When I was 8 or 9 I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and fall asleep on the floor in front of their bed. For some reason, I just felt safer there.
Something was different about me.
I had plenty of friends back then, but I was always a little awkward physically. I had frizzy curly hair that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to brush out.
My growth spurt hit at 12 or 13 and I shot up taller than a lot of the boys in my grade. Along with that came huge hips and what I then called “thunder thighs.”
I wasn’t like the other girls in my grade- the ones that boys paid attention to. Those girls had straight hair and they were super skinny. I know now that the things I was ashamed of back then are what make me who I am.
I’m still working on my self-confidence, but I’m able to recognize that my thighs are strong, and my curly hair makes me unique.
But I also think that feeling so strongly about being different made me nervous. I remember lying awake late at night replaying all the conversations I’d had that day, obsessing over what I said or didn’t say. I’d stay up so late worrying that I couldn’t wake up on time for school the next day.
Once I got closer to graduating, I had more important things to worry about. I stressed over where I was going to college, what I wanted to be, and getting a perfect 4.0.
I know it’s not that abnormal to worry about those things, but I remember the only B I got in high school like it just happened yesterday. I’ll never forget how devastated I was! I think I took the obsessing and worrying a little too far.
Maybe I had anxiety back then and just didn’t know it yet.
I can definitely say I’ve been able to check all of those boxes at some point in my life. But now that I’m a mom, living with anxiety has taken on a whole new meaning.
What Anxiety Looks Like For Moms
It’s worrying that I yelled too much last night and I didn’t play enough. And falling asleep wondering if my kids know how much I love them.
It’s hearing a siren and hoping it’s not someone I love. This feels even worse if it happens when my kids are at school!
It’s thinking that my friends don’t like me anymore when I haven’t heard from them in a while. Then it’s checking my phone every 5 minutes to see if they texted me back when I ask them if they want to meet up.
It’s walking into a party praying that I don’t look ridiculously out of style in my jeans that never fit right after I had kids and my sweater from last season.
It’s hoping that my child isn’t being a mean kid on the playground, but being too scared that he is to intervene and find out. And if he is, it’s being too uncertain of my parenting style to know what to do or the right words to say.
It’s worrying that my son’s going to fall off the monkey bars and break his arm again. Or that my other son’s getting too close to the edge and will fall off too. Then he’ll end up needing surgery again and he’ll be so scared because of what he’s already been through.
It’s lying awake at night thinking of all the things I need to do, worrying that I’m going to forget one of them. Then finally getting up to make lunches at midnight or sign my child’s permission slip, because I don’t trust myself to remember.
It’s making my kids hold my hands extra tight in every parking lot and losing my cool when they don’t listen and run off.
It’s worrying that the car in front of me is going to slam on the breaks. Sometimes, when it’s raining really hard and I’m driving in it, it’s worrying that I’m going to start skidding across four lanes of traffic and end up in the median. And if I do end up dying, what will happen to my kids? Who will take care of them? Where will they live? Who will be there to see them graduate and help them plan their future weddings?
Sometimes, it’s not wanting to get out of bed.
All the time, it’s second-guessing myself as a mom. Wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Questioning if I’m feeding my kids the right thing- if I should be giving them more veggies and less candy.
Are these things all normal? Does every mom feel this way sometimes about their kids? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you’re out there feeling this way, you’re not alone.
There Is Help For Moms Living With Anxiety
If you’re feeling anxious or worried enough that you feel like it’s stopping you from doing your job as a mom, please reach out for help. Find someone you feel safe talking to. It can make a big difference! Psychology today is a great place to start.
Inside: Tips to help manage back-to-school anxiety
Now that it’s August, summer is coming to an end. Which means the first day of school will be here before we know it!
If your kids are like mine, going back to school can stir up alot of different emotions! My kids are sad that they won’t get to stay up late and sleep in as long as they want.
My 4-year-old is worried that he won’t make any friends. I’m pretty sure was friends with almost every child in his class last year. But he’s also shy at first and starting over with new classmates can be intimidating for a 5-year-old. He’s also nervous that he won’t know what he’s supposed to know in Kindergarten.
Sometimes kids aren’t able to tell us they’re feeling nervous, but they might experience physical symptoms of anxiety like frequent stomach aches or headaches. This chart from Anxious Toddlers shows some other ways that anxiety can affect the body.
All of these feelings are normal and ok. But they can be overwhelming for children and their caregivers who don’t know how to help. Here are the things that have helped me and my family prepare for the first day of school.
8 Tips for Helping Kids Deal with SCHOOL ANXIETY:
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1. Take a Trial Run
Most schools have Open House where you can go meet the teacher. You can also find out where their classroom will be and learn what to expect on the first day. This might help kids who are nervous about not knowing what to expect, especially if they see that some of their friends are in the same class.
2. Plan a Play Date
Our school has Facebook groups for every grade level. Sometimes the parents arrange play dates prior to the first day of school so the kids can get to know each other. It’s also a great way for the parents to meet and talk about questions or concerns they may have.
3. Draw a Picture
Color Your Heart is an activity that helps kids name and express the feelings they’re having when they’re too overwhelmed to put them to words. Check out my previous post here on how to do this activity with your child. Older kids might be able to draw a picture of what they think the first day of school will be like. Both of these activities can be good ways to help your child let their guard down and open up conversations about why they are feeling anxious.
4. Read a Book
The Kissing Hand tells a story about Chester the raccoon, who is nervous about going to school and leaving his mom. She tells him about a family secret called the Kissing Hand to help him feel her love anywhere he goes through where she kissed his hand.
I also love the book On The First Day of Kindergarten. It’s great for nervous or excited kids who are about to go to Kindergarten and don’t know what to expect. It’s adapted from The Twelve Days of Christmas song and points out that even though saying goodbye to your parents is hard, Kindergarten is full of fun.
5. Practice Coping Skills
Worry Wars, by child therapist Paris Goodyear Brown, is a great activity book with practical ways to help children with anxiety battle their fears. The activities are designed to be fun and easy enough for parents to be able do them at home with their child.
6. Relaxation Exercises
Lori Lite, a parent whose own children struggled with anxiety, created a collection of relaxation CDs for kids called Indigo Dreams. They include stories about animals that introduce stress management techniques to kids in an entertaining way. Her website Stress Free Kids has other great resources to help kids with anxiety including games and coloring pages that go along with the cd.
7. Make Sure Your Child Gets a Good Nights Sleep
Try to start getting into a healthy bedtime routine a few weeks before school starts so that the adjustment to waking up early for school isn’t as hard. Then stick with it. It may seem like kids resist routines at first, but once they become habit they help them feel safe and secure.
8. Increase Their Confidence
People with low self-esteem think they aren’t good enough. They’re also always afraid they’re going to fail, which can lead to a vicious cycle of increased anxiety.
As a parent, you can help your child see that they’re capable of succeeding in school. Here are a few ways to do that:
Make a list of all the things they’re good at.
Write down everything you like about them and help them come up with a few things others might say.
Remind them that you love them unconditionally and that you always will even if they make mistakes.
Tell them you’ll be there to help even when it gets hard.
If you think your child has overwhelming anxiety that’s interfering with their ability to attend school or social events, I recommend seeking professional help. You can find a listing of credentialed play therapists in your area who specialize in working with young children at www.a4pt.org. Your pediatrician can also be a great resource to help you decide if your child needs additional support.
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