Back to School Anxiety? 3 Tips Parents Need to Know for Managing Their Family’s Mental Health During the Pandemic

Written by: Elly from Circles

Aug 30, 2020

Stay healthy. Stay calm. This is a little mantra to keep in clear view for this year’s back to the school calendar. With so much going on, it is normal to feel stressed. With a situation filled with so much uncertainty, it is normal to feel anxiety. As we begin the back to school season, it is clear that this is a year like no other. So, whether your child is going back to kindergarten or college or whether your school is going hybrid, remote, or fully in person, you’d better buckle up your seatbelts and get ready for a wild rollercoaster ride.

To begin, remember that you are doing you and you are making decisions based on what is right for your family. Try not to spend time comparing your decisions to those of others. Refrain from making judgments. Everyone is trying to navigate during this crazy time the best that they can. Have empathy for those who seem to be struggling a bit more. Regardless of what your family’s individual situation may be, here are three creative strategies for managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety as you face the new school year ahead.

Focus on the areas that you can control: There are so many things out of your control right now. Think about it. We are unable to control whether the school will open or close. We are unable to control the global rate of disease spread. We cannot control if the supermarket will have the groceries that we need. And we cannot control when businesses open or close. And perhaps the most frustrating part? We have no idea how much longer this pandemic will last? Weeks? Months? Half a year? Your guess is as good as mine. But until the said time, let go of the things that you cannot control. Spend your time and energy, focusing on the things that you can control. You can control your thoughts and attitudes. You can control how you spend your time. Try turning off the news and watching a program for enjoyment. Pick up a book or go outside and celebrate the beauty of nature. Help others and spread kindness. There are many amazing ways to find enjoyment during this unprecedented time. Establish Routines: Covid-19, working from home, and homeschooling children have created a lack of structure for many. Routines are an excellent tool to help us cope with change and uncertainty. When you set up a routine, you know exactly what to expect. With so much on your plate to manage, setting up a routine can ensure that you are not leaving out important components of self-care from your day today. For kids, a chalkboard or whiteboard is an excellent place to help them visualize routine. Give the kids some control by adding fun items to the calendar. For everyone’s health and sanity, keep mealtimes and bedtimes on schedule. Make your routine fun! And remember not to over-schedule. It’s important to leave some room for spontaneity and silliness in there. Have Regular Mental Health Check-ins and Reinforce Ways to Cope: Check-in regularly with your loved ones to make sure they are managing their stresses okay. Remember, children often show stress differently than adults. Changes to eating, sleeping, and loss of interest in things they once enjoyed are common ways for kids to show stress. Normalize the routine of talking about feelings. As parents, our natural ability is to solve problems and lessen our kids’ pain and discomfort. However, our kids need to develop their own solutions on ways to cope with their stress. Try listening to your kids’ frustrations without giving advice. Ask them to find their own coping mechanisms, which are self-soothing. Put the power in their hands to find ways to cope with a challenging and frustrating time. Remember, you are your children’s greatest teachers and their most adored role models. The better plan you have to manage your own Covid related stress and anxiety, the better your children will do. For additional information, the CDC has excellent resources for families on managing COVID-19 related stress.

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How Can Support Group Therapy Ease the Pain of Grief?

Written by: Elly from Circles

Nov 10, 2020

Have you recently lost someone you loved?  Are you having trouble moving through the stages of grief?  Do you feel like you are paddling upstream, through Class V rapids, and don’t know how to catch your breath?  Grief, like love, may be the most powerful emotion we as humans feel.  When we lose a loved one the feeling can be crushing and very difficult to move on from.

Grief is not only paralyzing, but grief can also be so very lonely.  Grief is personal and unique to each and every one of us.  And at times it may seem like you are the only one who could possibly feel such, deep and gut-wrenching pain.  The truth is that there many others out there suffering the pain of grief, alone just like you.

Talking about death and grief openly in our culture is at best awkward.  Death reminds of us of our own mortality and it is commonplace for our culture to avoid the discussion at all costs. After the funeral, we are expected to neatly move on.  Get back to work. Get back to living.  The truth is grief is messy.  It is disruptive.  It lasts a long time.  And there is no straight forward easy path to healing. For healing to truly take place you must work hard and diligently through the stages of grief.  At Circles, we have seen firsthand that one of the best ways to work through grief is to work through it with the support, kindness and care of others going through the same challenges.

Finding support with others in a group setting can make moving through difficult times in a nurturing environment much easier.  There are many specialized support groups which focus on grief.  These groups, often led by a professionally trained grief therapist, help those who have experienced loss move through the stages of grief collectively and in healthy, productive ways.

If you have never been part of a support group before – it is natural to have questions.   Here are a few frequently asked questions that we often get with regard to joining one our online professionally facilitated grief support groups.

What Can I Expect From A Grief Support Group? In Circles grief support group, you can expect a safe and nurturing environment where you are encouraged to share your feelings openly and honestly.  Support groups are a safe, confidential space to speak from the heart about your lost loved one.  If it is difficult to talk about your emotions you have the availability to remain anonymous.  It is expected that your emotions will run freely and openly.  It is encouraged that feelings and difficult emotions are expressed and received with support, kindness love and care. Circles support groups are more than just a peer support group.  All our groups are led by a professionally trained and licensed facilitator.  Over a matter of weeks your facilitator will get to know you and share important insights for your healing and progress.

What Will Talk About During Our Weekly Group Sessions?

At Circles, we follow an evidence based curriculum for each of our support groups.  Our experienced facilitators listen to you, your expectations and your needs.  The topics discussed are individualized and are relevant to you and your peers.  The first few sessions of your support group will be about getting to know one another and building the trust and rapport needed to share openly and confidently about your feelings and grief.   We have heard from many of our participants that their weekly group meeting highlights their weekly calendar. They look forward to the consistent, non-judgmental support available to them each week.

What are the Benefits of Joining a Grief Support Group?  One of the best things about attending a grief support group is an essential reminder that you are not alone.  Although we have been leading support groups for many years, we still find it amazing that group members report that they feel more hope and meaning in their lives after just one or two sessions.  Other benefits that are group members report include:

Feeling less lonely  Having reduced feelings of distress, anxiety, and depression  Finding increased coping skills  Increased sense of self -empowerment  Increased knowledge and resources  Positive emotional, mental, and physical health outcomes  Having an increased sense of happiness and hopefulness

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Swiss American psychiatrist and author of “On Death and Dying,” said the reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to."   Our mission at Circles is to find the best in you to help you cope, find resources, and heal within our emotional support groups.