a boy with pinocchio toy

Why Children Lie and What Parents Can Do to Prevent It

Although morally incorrect, but lying is pretty common among growing kids. In fact, children start lying as early as at the age of three and it is fairly normal. After all, lying is common among adults too. Lying could rather be a sign of healthy brain development, as lying involves cognitive ability to imagine a scenario and consequences. In the early years, child’s lies are easy to catch but as children grow, they become better at lying. However, as a parent it is your duty to develop moral values in your child. Honesty is one such value, but when your child starts lying, you become worried whether you have failed to inculcate positive values in him or her or if your child will grow up to become an expert liar. Don’t worry! The situation is not that grim, and you can easily help your child leave the habit of lying. But before that you need to understand why your child lies. Lying, just like any other behavior, is learned and goal-driven. If you can find the reason why your child lies, you can easily handle the situation. As mentioned above, lying is quite normal and common, but if you don’t address the issue on time, it will surely become a severe behavioral problem.

There could be many reasons why a child lies. Depending on the age of the child, some of the common reasons why a child might be lying are discussed below. Although the list of causes is not exhaustive, it certainly provides a broad background and may be used as a guide for dealing with a child’s habit of lying:

Very small children can lie as a consequence of their developing cognitive skills, and lying is a new skill that they try. Such lies can be translated as wishful thinking, making imaginary friend, or making up stories. These are fundamentally the result of child’s newly acquired mental skills and observation of others. When you read your child bedtime stories, you are helping your child expand his or her cognitive abilities like imagination, thinking, etc. So when your 3-4 year old child tells you about his or her imaginary friend, it is not actually lying. Rather, your child is applying his or her newly acquired mental abilities.

Children start lying as a result of observing their adults lying. Remember! A growing child is like a sponge, he/she absorbs what he/she gets to see. Just like other behaviors, lying is also learned by observing others. Therefore, the responsibility to provide them with a positive role model lies on you too.

As mentioned earlier, lying is also goal-driven. So, in order to find out the reason behind your child’s lying, you need to identify, what your child is trying to achieve from lying. In most cases, children often lie in an attempt to avoid aversive consequences.

Many parents complain that that they have used all sorts of measures to control lying and that they have never encouraged lying, but all in vain. However, what they fail to recognize is how they react or what sort of response they give out when their child tells them an unpleasant truth. Your reaction determines to a great extent your child’s behavior in terms of lying. That is why it is often told that parents should never overreact when their child shares something with them, no matter how outrageous or against the value system of their family that issue is.

Opposite of the above is when a child tells a lie to get something he/she desires. This happens, when parents adopt only a reward-based system for the child. So if you are also among those parents, it is important to acknowledge simultaneously the power of internal motivation as well.

In some instances, children, especially teenagers, lie in order to avoid attention. This is the reason why most teenagers with depression or anxiety go unidentified. In an attempt to avoid being overwhelmed by attention of their parents, they often hide their emotional turmoil by lying about it.

Many children lie in order to compensate for their shortcomings and sometimes. Often, the ones who lack self-confidence or want to impress others exaggerate stuff. This type of lying is manifested in bragging. They may tell their friends about how big their house is or how many cars they have in order to impress them.

Last but not the least, children may lie to avoid hurting others’ feelings or to make others happy. They fear that their truth will hurt the feelings of others and so they lie. This type of lying is fairly common among adults as well. We often refrain from giving honest feedback to our friends and loved ones because we fear that it will hurt their feelings and that is the reason we sometimes give fake positive feedback instead.

Now that we have covered the basic reasons behind lying, it’s time to focus on how to deal with your child’s lying. Here are a few techniques that can help you encourage honesty in your children and prevent them from lying:

1. Set an example: You are your child’s first role model, and children learn by observing. If they see you lying on occasions and to others, they will definitely catch the habit of lying. Moreover, if you also lie, you will not be able to object to your child’s lies. So make it a point to never lie in front of your child. And if a situation comes where you have to lie, don’t forget to explain the reason why you lied. Alternatively, you can even admit to committing the mistake and be sorry for it. By doing this you will make your child understand that mistakes happen, and that they do not stop us from improving ourselves. After all, we are all humans, and to err is human.

2. Consider the age: Take in to consideration the age of your child. Children below four often engage in making up stories, which cannot be considered as lies. They are part of growing up. In such instances, encourage your child’s imagination without encouraging the lying.

3. Start early: Lying or its opposite, i.e., telling the truth, are all part of a child’s growing up. Virtues like honesty should be inculcated in your child, as early as possible. Make some rules for your family, where lying is discouraged and honesty is encouraged. With small kids, this can be accomplished through story telling. And with middle-school kids, this can be encouraged by finding teachable situations where these values and their importance as a part of the value system are discussed. If you succeed in creating an atmosphere where honesty is valued, chances are that your teenage kids will automatically make honesty a part of their own value system.

4. Talk: When you catch your child lying, instead of losing your calm and overreacting, have a peaceful talk with your child. Tell him or her how lying affects relationships; how it makes others feel. Tell the child how lying can lead to loss of trust and how honesty on the other hand, helps build relationships that have trust and faith.

5. Never label: As a thumb rule, never label your child as a ‘liar.’ Labeling makes the person unwilling to change as it leaves no room for improvement. Always target the behavior and never the person. Once you label your child as a liar, your child will no longer be enthusiastic about changing his or her behavior.

6. Encourage honesty: Very often, in an attempt to change or modify a behavior, we forget to encourage the desired behavior. Try focusing on situations where your child is being honest or telling the truth. Praise the honesty effusively. This will automatically lead to repetition of the desired behavior, i.e., honesty.

7. Consequence: If you find that your child is lying, you need to decide the consequences of lying as house rules. Rather than using punishment like reprimand or physical punishment as a means of discouraging lying, take away the privileges (e.g., limit screen time, etc.). You can also use restitution where the child is given a second chance to mend his or her mistake. These rules and consequences should be made clear to the child and should be established early on. At the same time, you can use rewards like star or point system to encourage honesty. This is especially effective if the child is small; gradually shift on praise as reward.

8. Be a safe haven: You as a parent need to convey to your child that he or she can trust you; that the child is unconditionally loved, no matter what. Building a relationship of love and trust requires patience and being open to forgiveness. If your child comes to you and honestly shares something that is shocking to you and if you overreact by shouting or lecturing, then chances are that your child will start lying or will avoid being honest with you in future. Listen calmly and then find appropriate situation to share your opposing views. This will not only encourage better communication between you and your child but will also encourage honesty and acceptance. So make sure to never overreact when your child tells you the truth.

9. Find the cause: And lastly, whenever your child lies or you find out that your child has been lying with friends or teachers, try to look for the reason behind. Chances are that finding the cause will help your find the solution as well.

girl looking in mirror

8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

Body image is a term that has gained significant importance in recent years, thanks to the recognition of its importance and role in an individual’s well-being. Body image refers to how a person views his/her physical appearance; it is a mental representation of how a person looks on the outside and how a person thinks or feels about this physical appearance. This perception is based partly on a person’s observation of self and partly on the reactions of others. In other words, our body image is formed not only by how we see ourselves on the outside, but it is also formed by how others react to our physical appearance. A lot of social factors such as media, culture, community, internet, etc. play a critical role in shaping our body image.  This body image can be positive or negative. A negative body has, however, been linked with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and poor overall well-being. A person with negative body image has often been found to resort to unhealthy measures or extreme steps to attain a more positive body image like, crash dieting, plastic surgery, etc.

At the same time, a person who has positive or high self-esteem has been empirically found to have a positive body image as well. As far as gender is considered, more women have been found to suffer from poor body image as compared to men. However, this trend is changing fast, as more men are becoming concerned about how they look.

Overall, following factors have been found to influence a person’s body image:

a. How he/she views his/her physical appearance. This perception can, however, be incorrect.

b. How he/she feels about this perception, referred to as the affective aspect of body image. Whether he/she is satisfied or not with his/her physical appearance.

c. The behavioral aspect of body image which involves the behavior that one engages in as result of his/her body image.

d. And lastly, the cognitive aspect of body image which includes how one thinks about his/her body image. This may involve preoccupation with one’s physical appearance or one aspect of it.

Having negative body image can be a cause of major distress to a person and can greatly affect his or her overall well-being. In present times of social media, we are frequently and sometimes indirectly, bombarded with images of beauty standards which constantly and continuously shape our notion of ideal beauty, and unfortunately, give rise to insecurities. However, the suggestions given in this post can help you keep all the insecurities at bay and build a positive and healthy body image.

1. Positive self-esteem: As mentioned earlier, people with negative body image suffer from low self-esteem. At the same time, it has been found that, people who have positive or high self-esteem tend to have positive body image. So if you feel dissatisfied with your body image, you probably need to boost your self-esteem. This works in two ways. Low self-esteem can lead to negative body image and negative body image can lower your self-esteem. So in either situation, building a positive self-esteem can help you build a positive body image. When you value yourself highly, you are less likely to view your physical appearance in a negative light.

2. Find healthy role models: We are greatly influenced by the public appearance of stars or celebrities. We follow them on their instagram or facebook. We often find them perfect and flawless and start comparing ourselves with them. In doing so, we forget that what we are looking at is perhaps the result of long hours of makeup session, photoshop, and lighting, etc.

Alas we have been taught throughout history that “fair is beautiful.” And we often tend to feel inadequate or less worthy if we are not fair or have dark complexion. This has a detrimental effect on the body image. If you too feel that way, it is time to find such role models who can give a boost to your self-esteem. Celebrity tennis player Serena Williams is a good example of an achiever whose body color could not stop her from attaining great success.

3. Stop comparing: You are you and that is your power. In order to build positive body image, you need to stop comparing yourself with others. Accept yourself. Unreasonable comparison leads to disappointment. You need to understand that each of us is different, and this difference is what makes us unique. Start appreciating yourself.

4. Appreciate yourself: Remember, your body is your first home. Appreciate how your body helps you achieve your goals and dreams. Your body is doing a lot to help you move forward. If you feel you are overweight and you need to lose weight, then go ahead. But don’t do it just to impress others or you hate your body fat. Instead do it for yourself and for your body because it is healthy.

5. Accept yourself: When it comes to our body we need to understand that there are some things we cannot change while there are other things that we can surely work on to improve. For example, you cannot change your height, complexion, whereas if you are underweight or overweight, you can definitely do something about it. Attempting to change things that cannot be changed will only lead to disappointment and frustration, and will further deteriorate your body image. Accept yourself just the way you are.

6. Realistic expectations: It is important to set realistic expectation from ourselves, especially, for young children, who are blinded by popular figures in the entertainment industry. As mentioned earlier, there are certain things about our body over which we have no control and which we cannot change. So for a young teenager who wants to become a supermodel like his or her role model but is unfortunately not tall enough, having such an expectation can be unrealistic. And this can lead to poor body image.

7. Focus on your strengths: We all may not possess attributes of supermodels or movie stars like great figure, height, or flawless complexion, but we should never forget that we all have strengths of our own. And if we start focusing on our strengths instead of focusing on our weaknesses and the things we don’t possess, we all can become the best version of ourselves.

8. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, get quality sleep, and love yourself. If you need to lose weight do it in a healthy way. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Isn’t it ironic that you tell every important person in your life how much you love him/her, and how much you care, but you seldom tell this to yourself? Next time when you see yourself in the mirror, don’t forget to say “I love you.” Once you start taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you can never feel or think bad about your own self.

Also read 8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

teenagers smoking

10 Techniques to Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure

As our kids grow, they experience an urge to fit in with their friends or peer. This desire to gel with the kids of their own age group, called peers is quite common among growing children. As they grow, they become more concerned about what others think of them, especially kids of their own age group. And in an attempt to seek approval from others, they engage in life-threatening activities like overspeeding or rash-driving or fall victims to risky behaviors like smoking, drug abuse, cheating, theft, etc. This feeling that one must do the same things as other kids of one’s age do, in order to be liked or be a part of their group is called peer pressure.

However, peer pressure is not always negative, it can be positive as well. A positive peer pressure is when the child is influenced to perform better at studies, or take part in activities like sports, or join drama club at school because all his or her friends are  doing so. When peer pressure is positive parents don’t have to worry. However if you suspect that your child is falling prey to negative peer pressure, you must not take it lightly and rather address it properly. As a parent your job is to help your child learn techniques to deal with peer pressure. Here are some of the techniques that you can use to help your child resist peer pressure:

1. Make your child understand what negative peer pressure is: Often children are unaware of the concept of peer pressure and how detrimental it can be to their overall wellbeing. Knowing how peer pressure works can help your child identify and defy it. Sometimes your child’s friends might be using the method of emotional blackmail to make him or her conform. Knowledge about peer pressure will help your child identify such situations and act rightly. For instance, when your child’s friends force him or her to go to a night party if he/she wants to remain part of the group, he/she will be better equipped to make the decision.

2. Lead by example: Like kids, adults too sometimes fall prey to peer pressure. When adults feel obliged to go on a vacation or buy some fancy dress just to maintain their status, that’s peer pressure. Kids observe their parents and follow what they see them doing. You are your child’s first teacher, and also his or her role model. Your child learns a lot from watching how you act. If the child sees you dealing with the peer pressure in a healthy and rational way, he/she would learn doing so. Set a good example for your children and let them learn from you how to resist peer pressure.

3. Know your child’s friends: It is important to know about your child’s friends to find out whether they are a bad influence or a good influence. Invite them over, interact with them, and try to understand their value system. Help your child understand about the qualities of good friends. Help your child understand that a friend who puts conditions cannot be a good friend.

4. Spend quality time with your child: As children grow, especially during adolescence, they start spending more time with their friends and less with their family. We as a parent, also sometimes become so busy with our daily responsibilities that we don’t find time to interact with our children; also sometimes we think that they don’t need that much care and attention, which is a misconception. As children enter adolescence, life challenges become more serious and the children often feel confused about how to deal with such challenges. Most children start smoking or try drugs or alcohol during adolescence in an attempt to become popular or look cool in front of their peers. Therefore, it becomes even more critical that you, as a parent, are there for your child. Make a schedule to spend some time with your child on a daily basis—may be a dinner together or going for a walk with your child, etc.

5. Communication: Keep communication channels open with your child. Let them know that they can come to you whenever they feel like and talk about anything with you. Have regular conversations with your child as you both spend some quality time together. Find teachable moments in your day-to-day conversations. Be a good listener, and hold yourself from overreacting if they share something alarming. Your reaction will determine the probability of whether they will share their secrets or problems with you in future.

6. Teach decision-making skills: Decision making is a skill that can be easily learned. Help your child learn this skill by giving situations where he or she needs to choose one option out of two or more. Teach your child the concept of pros and cons and how to weigh each option on pros and cons. You can give imaginary situations which involve decision-making and encourage your child to think through each option with possible future consequences. You can even use role-play to help your child better understand the situation and decision making involved.

7. Prepare response: It is often better to prepare some responses for a possible situation where the child might face peer pressure in advance so that these responses come handy. This is important in cases where the child is young and has not yet mastered the skill of resisting peer pressure. Sentences like, “Maybe some other time,” “Sorry, I have some work at home,” “Sorry, but I am not feeling well today, next time” can help your child instantly resist peer pressure. Make your child practice these sentences in role-play, like when someone asks him to drive, go for a night out, or to try smoking. Also teach assertiveness techniques to your child and how to say NO in such situations. Assertiveness requires practice; therefore, create role-plays to help your child master assertiveness.

8. Boost your child’s self-esteem: Children who are confident and have high and positive self-esteem are less likely to succumb to peer pressure because they don’t rely on others for acceptance. Build your child’s self-esteem by pointing out their strengths and by praising your child’s positive behaviors. Give them opportunity to voice their opinions and also value their opinions even if they sound incorrect or unrealistic. By respecting their views and opinion you will help them become more confident.

9. Hobbies: Encourage your child to take part in hobbies or activities other than studies. This will not only help your child gain positive self-esteem, but will also bring your child in contact with like-minded friends or better role models among peers.

Set healthy rules: Rules are very important provided they are healthy and not unreasonable. Rules not only help your child feel safe, they also give you, as a parent, a ready model of resisting pressure. When your child sees you refusing to give in to his or her unreasonable demands they also learn how to assert oneself under peer pressure and say no. Rules also provide order to the situations that are challenging. Setting limits for screen time, staying out at night, or going out for a party with friends are good examples of healthy rules.

8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to how one views oneself in terms of one’s own self-worth. One can have a very high opinion of oneself or low, or in-between. Everyone can have doubts about one’s abilities at some point in their life. Feeling low about one’s self-worth can lead to lots of negative effects like, feelings of insecurities, self-doubt, or demotivation. Reasons could be anything, from being bullied to experience of failure in some exam/job interview, or it could be a heartbreak or rejection in love, or experiencing inability to maintain relationships. These experiences can lead to low self-esteem, which in turn can hamper the ability of an individual to bounce back from such experiences. There are also personality factors which predispose a person to have a low self-esteem. In either of the case, it becomes more imperative to help oneself or our loved ones to build healthy and positive self-esteem. High and positive self-esteem has been shown to enhance a person’s success at workplace, relationships, and also his or her mental and emotional wellbeing. It, however, does not mean that you have to be perfect in everything or in every role of your life, to have a healthy self-esteem.

A positive and healthy self-esteem is knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging one’s flaws and not being overwhelmed by them and knowing that one does not have be perfect to be happy; it’s rather being happy with one’s imperfections. Here are some powerful ways to boost your self-esteem. But before we start, you need to keep only one thing in mind when it comes to self-esteem, that it is based on your opinion about yourself, what others think or feel doesn’t matter, so you need to work on yourself and on your own thoughts alone. Once you are able to view yourself in positive and healthy manner, what others think of you or how others make you feel won’t matter. You will be the in charge of your life and your thoughts.

1. Be kind: The biggest irony is that we are able to show kindness to others but when it comes to ourselves, we become the meanest or stingiest person. We are willing to discount or ignore other’s imperfections or failures sometimes, but when it comes to our own failures or flaws, we leave no stone unturned to blame ourselves. It is high time that your start showing some kindness to yourself as well. Failing at one aspect doesn’t make you a failure. Like, you can be bad at mathematics but you can be expert in some other subject. Same goes with every aspect of one’s life. Therefore, stop lowering your self-worth over one incident or aspect of your life, and start focusing on your strengths instead. Use positive self-talk to bolster up your self-esteem and challenge any negative thought that comes to your mind and makes you feel less worthy. Besides, never compare yourself with anyone. Your self-worth is based on how you think of yourself not how you think about others or how they think about you. Be your own biggest supporter and encourager.

2. Self-care: Take good care of yourself. Set your health as your first priority. Eat regular healthy balanced diet, incorporate lot of fresh fruits, and plenty of water in your daily diet. Having a sound and quality sleep is very important for how you feel. Lack of good sleep makes you feel irritable and lowers your productivity. Avoid alcohol and other recreational drugs when you feel low about yourself; these only make things worse and, in fact, hampers your natural abilities to deal with challenges. Include daily exercise like aerobics or morning walk in your daily routine. Exercise makes you feel good. Go out; spend some time in parks or green surroundings.

3. Focus on the positives: To maintain a healthy self-esteem, it is important to focus on the positive things. No success is small; celebrate your accomplishments and achievements, even if not too remarkable. This will especially help you in situations of self-doubt and will let you focus on your abilities. Don’t forget to praise and appreciate yourself for every achievement. Remember failures are part of life and not the end. Take your failures as learning experiences and appreciate your efforts.

4. Make an inventory: Sometimes in situations of self-doubt or circumstances where our perseverance is challenged, it is helpful to make a list of things that you like about yourself as a person. Prepare a list of your strengths or qualities about yourself that you appreciate. No matter how small that quality may seem, write it down. You can even ask others about what they like about you or what qualities they appreciate. These could be skills, traits, beliefs, talents, achievements, etc. Go through these on daily basis to maintain a healthy and positive self-esteem.

5. Explore your talents and hobbies: Make effort to indulge in activities that help you relieve stress and bring out something new about you. These should be activities other than your routine tasks, e.g., gardening, painting, music, cooking, etc. These activities help you explore your competencies and give you immediate gratification of accomplishment, which will, in turn, enhance your self-esteem.

6. Avoid perfection: Seeking perfection is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it encourages the person to strive for excellence and on the other hand, it can lead to feeling of failure, disappointment, dissatisfaction, or frustration. Research has shown that perfection has a link with depression as well. Instead of seeking perfection you should focus on completion. Try to give your best and don’t pressurize yourself with unrealistic expectations. Think of goals and expectations that are realistic and achievable.

This applies to personal life as well. Whenever you shout or get angry at your child or at your partner, this doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or a bad spouse. Or when you get rejected in love, this shouldn’t make you feel less worthy of love or affection. Or if you fail at a task at your workplace, it doesn’t, in any way, make you less capable as a worker. We all have weak moments in life where we don’t know the right way to respond or where things are beyond our control. These are times which should be taken as learning experiences. Without doubting yourself, you should learn from these experiences and move forward.

7. Accept compliments: People with low self-esteem often find it difficult to accept compliments from others, or they do not trust these compliments and sometimes don’t know how to respond to positive compliments from others. It is high time you start accepting compliments and enjoy the feeling of being appreciated without any apprehension or doubt. Practice in front of mirror on how to respond when someone appreciates you. Saying a simple ‘thank you’ can be quite challenging for a person with low self-esteem.

8. Do something for others: When you experience low self-esteem, doing small favor for others or the environment and surrounding can help you achieve a feeling of accomplishment. Making someone feel good by giving them a nice compliment can help you achieve this. Helping others can help you achieve positive feelings about yourself.

8 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying

Being bullied has unfortunately become very common these days. But the effects of bullying on a young mind can be quite devastating including poor school performance, anxiety, feelings of loneliness, loss of self-esteem, or even depression. Earlier it was believed that bullying happens only at middle high school, but only recently it has been found that it has become fairly common at primary school levels as well. Name calling, teasing, hitting, isolating the child from the rest of class, use of abusive language, spreading rumours are some of the examples of bullying, and in this new age of social media bullying has taken a new dimension called cyber bullying.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied at school or has become target of cyber bullying it’s vital that you help your child cope or deal with bullying, especially if the child is young and does not have the skills to deal with the bully. First and foremost is to identify whether your child is being bullied or is going through some transitional phase. It becomes even more difficult if the child doesn’t come to you on his or her own to share with you that he or she is being bullied.

1. Look for the signs and talk: If you notice any sudden change in your child’s behavior like skipping school or unwillingness to go to school; if your child becomes recluse all of a sudden and no longer enjoys activities that he or she used to enjoy before, poor performance at school; any visible signs of bruises or injury that the child is not able to explain, these could be signs that something is not right and it’s time to talk to your child. All of these could be signs of your child being bullied. Create a safe space with your child so that he or she feels comfortable and safe in sharing what has been going on. For this you need to become a good listener. Be supportive and stay calm while listening. If your child is indeed being bullied, be very cautious not to blame the child. Make the child understand that there’s nothing wrong with him or her; he or she is not responsible for being bullied; and it’s not his or her fault. Try to boost your child’s confidence as the child might be having doubts about his or her own abilities to handle the situation or defend himself or herself from the bully. Reassure the child that things will be sorted out.

2. Advise the child correctly: No matter how angry you may feel but refrain from advising your child to fight back with bully by bullying. Otherwise, this can often escalate the situation to more violent outbursts. Instead, advise the child to avoid the situations or places where bullying occurs; advise him or her to avoid places where there is no adult supervision; interact with other kids at school; and most importantly, to tell teachers or other adults at the school. You can encourage the child to engage in buddy system, where the child can be accompanied by another child to visit places where bullying is most likely to occur like, hallways, washrooms, locker areas, etc. In the same way, you can encourage your child to do the same for another child who is being bullied.

3. Reassure the child: Sometimes kids think that if they tell someone at home or at school like teacher, bullying will get worse. Give assurance to the child that sharing with parents or teachers at school or some other authority, will not result in more bullying, rather, adults can help the kid deal with the bully or curb bullying. But this does not mean that you, as a parent, should take this lightly, when the child tells that bullying will get worse. You also need to find a way to handle the situation in a way that does not escalate the bullying. Like instead of approaching the bully directly or approaching his or her parents, it is better to inform the authorities at school. Most schools these days have anti-bullying programs.

4. Teach skills to deal with the bully: Most bullies thrive on the reactions of their targets. So teach your child to hold his or her reactions in front of the bully. It is better not to show any reaction to bullying. Hold your anger, tears, and fears as these give the bully power. In many cases, when the target doesn’t show any reaction to bullying, the bully stops on his or her own. Teach your child anger controlling skills (counting to ten, deep breathing, etc.).

5. Assertiveness skills: Help your child learn assertiveness skills. Help him or her practice skills where the child firmly tells the bully to “stop.” You can use role playing techniques where your play the role of the bully and your child practices assertiveness skills and learns to say “No” or “Stop” to the bully and walks away from the bully.

6. Emotional support: The child might be having a lot of emotional difficulties during this time. Try to support your child emotionally by encouraging him or her to share all the emotions that he or she is experiencing. Encourage your child to give outlet to the emotions like anger, fear, frustrations, guilt, or apprehensions, etc. If the child feels like crying, let him or her cry in front of you. Assure him or her that crying is not a sign of being weak; rather it’s a good way to give outlet to all the emotions inside.

7. Believe in your child: This is a time when the child might be experiencing a lot of self-doubts and loss of self-esteem. It is very important to show your faith in the child. Highlight your child’s potentials and positive aspects of his or her personality. Your confidence in your child’s abilities will surely build his or her self-esteem. You can teach your child to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Teach him or her to take a positive outlook of the situation and take it as a challenge rather than a problem. Assure your child that you are with him/her, no matter what, and that together both of you will definitely win this challenge.

8. Share with the authorities: Last but not the least, encourage your child to inform someone at school, like a teacher or counselor, or you can share the whole situation with school authorities yourself on your child’s behalf. But do ensure that things don’t get worse, like you can visit school when there is least chance of encountering the bully. Also, assure the child that adults have ways to tackle the situation.

Effective Strategies to Overcome Panic Attacks

Panic attack refers to sudden or unexpected onset of fear or terror that often seems to come out of the blue.  The episodes of these attacks can occur anytime and anywhere. The panic attacks are often emotionally overwhelming and are accompanied by physical symptoms. The person experiencing them may feel that he or she is having a heart attack or is going crazy and is often concerned about having another attack or about the consequences of having such attack. Another characteristic of panic attack is that these episodes occur in situations where they are least expected like during sleep or during relaxation and often last for not more than thirty minutes. However, in some instances, panic attack can be situationally predisposed, occurring only in certain situations such as being in a crowd or while driving. If left untreated panic attacks can develop into panic disorder and other difficulties and can become quite disabling. If you have experienced one or two such episodes without any further episode or complications in the past month, chances are that you are not suffering from panic disorder, and there’s nothing to worry. However, if you have been repeatedly experiencing such episodes along with fear of having another attack combined with major behavioral changes, for at least a month, then you might be suffering from panic disorder or at the risk of developing panic disorder.

Symptoms of panic attack include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Depersonalization (a feeling of being detached from one’s body) or derealization (a feeling that external world is strange or unreal)
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Fear of “going crazy,” or of “losing control”
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Choking feeling

Here are some effective strategies to handle panic attacks:

Breathing exercise: Panic attacks can often cause rapid breathing and this hyperventilation can actually worsen the symptoms. Hyperventilation leads to light-headedness, dizziness, palpitation, tingling sensation in feet and hands, and breathlessness, which can actually make the experience more overwhelming and terrifying. Engaging in breathing exercises, however, can really help you ease yourself and control the related symptoms. Engaging in diaphragmatic breathing can actually help calm yourself as you start to experience the symptoms. Close your eyes and slowly inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. You can count to five as you breathe in and out. Try to concentrate on your breathing.

Avoid alcohol, smoke, and caffeine: Eat a healthy balanced diet and avoid consuming caffeine, alcohol, and smoking as these have been shown to make the symptoms worse.  Furthermore, avoid medicines that contain stimulants.

Relaxation techniques: Engage in relaxation techniques like progressive muscular relaxation, yoga, and meditation. Make them a part of your daily routine as these activities tend to calm mind and body, and help keep anxiety symptoms in check while inducing feelings of happiness in general.

Exercise: Exercise has been shown to release feel-good hormones and hence, works as a natural anxiety buster. You can engage in walking, running, or simple aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes daily. Even dancing for 30 minutes can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

Sleep: Lack of proper sleep can also worsen the symptoms of panic attack, so try to get seven to eight hour sleep daily. But there’s another side to it also—symptoms of panic attacks or fear of getting another panic attack can actually damage your quality of sleep.

Learn mindfulness: Mindfulness can help your control the symptoms of panic attack. Depersonalization and derealization are some of the symptoms of panic attacks that can be quite distressing. Mindfulness can help you stay in touch with the reality and present. Concentrate on the physical sensations, like texture of clothes on your body and your feet touching the ground etc. These can help you stay in your present reality.

Concentrate on the objects: As your experience symptoms of panic attack, try to focus your mind on some object that is in your sight.  Try to observe all the details of the object. This can help you distract your mind. As you concentrate you may feel the symptoms are settling.

Acknowledge: Since most of the symptoms of panic attack are often physical and the person experiencing them can feel that he or she is having a heart attack or is about to die, it is important to first and foremost acknowledge that you are having a panic attack. It is important to rule out any medical condition, and once that is done, you should educate yourself about panic attacks. Learn about the symptoms and find out any cues that act as a trigger. This can help you manage your condition more effectively. You might experience that the symptoms are not as overwhelming as they used to be. Once you acknowledge that you are having a panic attack you will be able to calm yourself more quickly and effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide to Diaphragmatic Breathing

The purpose of various relaxation techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, yoga, mental imagery is to help the body reach homeostasis in states of heightened arousal. Whenever, we face a stressful or anxiety provoking situation, our body reacts by going into state of heightened physiological arousal both at neurological as well as hormonal levels, and the sole purpose of these techniques is to help reach physiological calmness. Diaphragmatic breathing is one such relaxation technique and perhaps the easiest one to learn and practice in day-to-day life. It is easy because breathing is an act that we perform without any hesitation or thought. But factors like stress, poor posture, clothes that cause restriction of movement, lead us to breathe from our chest instead of from diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing is controlled deep breathing and involves the movement of lower abdomen, whereas, normal breathing emphasizes on the expansion of the chest.

There are lots of benefits of diaphragmatic breathing and it plays an important role in meditation which helps in managing stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) etc. It also helps lower heart rate and has been highly recommended for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The beauty of diaphragmatic breathing technique is its simplicity; it can be performed anywhere and at anytime and does not require special equipment.

Here’s step by step guide to diaphragmatic breathing:

1. Take a comfortable position: Start by taking a comfortable posture. With your eyes closed you can either sit in a comfortable chair or preferably lie down on your back on the floor. It is recommended for the beginners to wear loose clothes, especially around the neck and waist. To begin with, it is recommended that you keep your hands on your stomach so that you can feel the rise and fall of your abdomen. Once you have mastered the technique, you can perform diaphragmatic breathing almost anywhere and at any time—while driving, standing, or while talking to someone.

2. Concentration: Just like other techniques of relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing also requires concentration. For the beginners, it is recommended to practice the technique in a quiet place with less interruptions and noise. While practicing, you might experience that your thoughts begin to wander. This is normal. Whenever you feel this happening, bring your attention back to breathing. You can in fact imagine these thoughts leaving your body as you exhale metaphorically.

Whereas, normal breathing is an involuntary and not-a-conscious activity, diaphragmatic breathing is a conscious and voluntary one. Concentration can be enhanced by focusing your attention on the components of each breath. Each breathing cycle is composed of four phases–inhaling; slight pause; and exhaling; followed by another slight pause before inhaling again. When performing this technique, isolate and recognize each phase and try to control the pace of each phase-breathing thereby regulating your breathing. During the phase of exhalation, body experiences the highest form of relaxation, so try to focus on this phase and experience how light and relaxed your body feels during this phase.

3. Visualization: This can be easily attached to diaphragmatic breathing and can enhance the effects of this breathing technique. The two most commonly used visualizations along with suggestion are discussed below:

(i) Breathing clouds: Start by closing your eyes and try to focus all your attention on your breathing. As you inhale, visualize the air being inhaled as pure, clean, fresh, rejuvenating, and with healing power. Imagine this whole air traveling throughout your body from your head to toe. Now as you exhale, visualize the air leaving your body as some dark cloud of smoke comprising stressors, tension, and toxins that are inside your mind and body. During each phase of inhalation and exhalation, feel the clean, fresh air with healing power circulating though out your body and all the stress and tension leaving your body as you exhale. Repeat this breathing cycle for five to ten minutes. As you perform the breathing technique, observe that your body becomes more relaxed, stress-free and tension-free. Also, the color of the exhaled cloud becomes light in color from dark to light, which is a symbol of your body becoming relaxed and cleansed from all the negativity.

(ii) Alternate nostril breathing: This technique may require some practice. Start by closing your eyes and concentrate on the breathing. Inhale through your nose or mouth and feel the air entering your body and reaching down your lungs and experience a rise in your stomach as you breathe in. Now feel your stomach descending as you exhale. As you become relaxed, through breathing, take a slow deep breath again. This time exhale solely through your left nostril. After you take out all the air from your body through left nostril, begin inhaling only through your right nostril. Repeat this breathing cycle for fifteen to twenty times. Breathe in through your right nostril and breathe out through your left nostril. After fifteen to twenty cycles, now shift the passage of breathing cycle; start by slowly inhaling through your left nostril and exhaling through the right one. Repeat the cycle for fifteen to twenty times. As you do, visualize the air as it flows through your body. Use your fingers to control inhaling and exhaling, it will also helps you better visualize the air flow.

(iii) Energy breathing: This is a breathing technique in which you breathe not only through nose or mouth, but through your whole body. This helps vitalize the body. In this breathing, the whole body in a sense assumes the role of one big lung. This technique can be performed while sitting or lying down on the floor. This technique has three phases. First, attain a comfortable position; now imagine a hole at the top of your head. As you inhale, visualize energy entering the top of your head in the form of a light beam. Now as you inhale, take this energy down to your abdomen. As you breathe out, let it (energy) go out from the top of your head. Repeat this ten times. As you perform this technique, let the light touch all the inner parts of your upper body.

Now move on to the next phase; visualize that the center of each foot has a hole. Again imagine energy in the form of a light beam. As you breathe in from your diaphragm, let the flow of energy move up to your abdomen from your feet, while focusing only on the lower parts of the body. Repeat this ten times. As you do, let the energy in the form of light reach all the inner parts of your lower body.

Now uniting the movement of energy from the top of your head and feet, direct it to the center of your body while inhaling with the diaphragm. Then allow the flow of energy to reverse direction as you breathe out. Do this ten to fifteen times. Every time you circulate the energy in your body, feel each body part and each cell getting rejuvenated. This technique, however, requires practice.

Also read Five Tips for Better Sleep
Also read Sleeping Problems and Anxiety and Stress—A Two-way Street
Also read Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Self-Help Techniques to Manage Anxiety

Anxiety is one of the most common yet most debilitating mental health conditions that can range from worry to full-blown anxiety disorders. There would rarely be anyone who has never worried about anything in his or her life and therefore, occasional worry or fear is rather a part of normal life.  We often worry about the wellbeing of our loved ones or we may fear for our own safety too. Sometimes we worry about our financial situations or our work while at other times we are just concerned about our future. These occasional worries are not always bad; in fact, they are somewhat good for our survival. They help us prepare ourselves to deal with life’s challenges. However, worries can sometimes take acute form and become unbearable, excessive, irrational, or even uncontrollable and are accompanied with physical symptoms such as increased palpitation of heart, sweating, and trembling. If you too are experiencing these symptoms, you might be suffering from full blown anxiety disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) recognizes seven primary types of anxiety disorders: phobic disorders of the “specific” or of the “social” type, panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). GAD is the most common of these anxiety disorders and is characterized by chronic excessive worry about a number of events or activities. The subjective experience of excessive worry in GAD is accompanied by following symptoms:

  • Restlessness or feelings of being keyed up or on edge
  • a sense of being easily fatigued
  • difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • irritability
  • muscle tension
  • sleep disturbance

However, an individual who worries a lot does not necessarily suffer from anxiety disorders. Sometimes having an unhealthy lifestyle can make you feel anxious. Following are some self-help techniques that can help you keep anxiety in check and manage symptoms of anxiety, though these must not be considered a substitute for professional help or treatment:

Exercise/Running: Performing regular exercise and going for jogging or brisk walk has been scientifically proven to help allay anxiety symptoms. Exercise releases chemicals, i.e., endorphins in the brain that can counter symptoms of anxiety and improves mood. It also helps in lowering stress hormone cortisol that is secreted when we are anxious. Several studies have shown overall benefits of exercise on mind and body. Exercising for half an hour four times a week has been recommended for those suffering from anxiety.

Socialize: Meet people you trust and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Isolation and loneliness has been shown to increase the symptoms of anxiety. You can also talk to your trusted friends over phone and share your worries with them. Since anxiety is often based on irrational thoughts, talking to others can bring sense to our unwarranted thoughts. Suppressing and keeping your thoughts to yourself, on the other hand, can make them overwhelming and difficult to deal with. You can join some support group also, where other anxiety patients like you share their thoughts, feelings, progress, etc. Make socializing a part of your daily routine no matter how difficult it sometimes may feel.

Muscular relaxation technique: Try Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique.  Since individuals who experience anxiety symptoms tend to have high arousal, progressive muscle relaxation technique can help release physical tension.

Sleep: Lack of good sleep can aggravate the symptoms. So in order to keep your anxiety symptoms under check, get qualitative 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night.

Deep breathing: Breathing from your gut has been scientifically proven to lower the arousal level of body. Hence, deep breathing exercise can help calm your body and mind. Use deep breathing to relieve immediate symptoms of anxiety like hyperventilation or shortness of breath.

Stay in the present: Anxiety disorders are often future-based, which means, you tend to worry about the things that you feel are going to happen. So in such instances, try to focus on the present. Ask yourself about what is happening at the moment. Mindfulness can help you stay in the moment. Mindfulness is a technique where we are made aware of what is going on around us through our five senses. What do we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste. A regular practice in mindfulness can help you ease anxiety symptoms.

Train your mind: Anxiety is often based on thoughts; therefore, in order to deal with it, one has to work on one’s thoughts. Be accepting to the fact that you cannot actually control everything. Try to do your best instead of striving for perfection. Research studies provide evidence regarding link between perfectionism and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones and try to maintain positive attitude about life.

Challenge your thoughts: Most of the worries and fears in anxiety are irrational and without any base. Identify your apprehensions and challenge each and every single thought that comes to your mind.

Eating healthy: Avoid consuming alcohol and caffeine and focus on eating a well-balanced diet. Eating healthy food helps maintain healthy mind and body. Stay hydrated. It may seem like too simple a remedy but staying hydrated can go a long way in managing anxiety. Whenever you experience anxiety symptoms, drink water as it helps lower the arousal.

Use art as mode of expression: Art therapy has also been found to help relieve anxiety symptoms. Use dance or painting as a mode of giving outlet to your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you take your mind off your worries.

Professional help: If you feel that your anxiety symptoms are interfering with your daily functioning, don’t hesitate to take professional help from a psychiatrist or psychologists or other healthcare provider in your community. Professional treatment mostly includes medications for severe symptoms, along with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Also Read: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Also Read: PTSD: Brain Biomarkers May Explain Variance in Symptom Severity
Also Read: Childhood Anxiety Related With Later Alcohol Problems
Also Read: Test Anxiety—Strategies to Overcome

 

How to be Assertive: Learn Standing Up for Yourself

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned, and it is a communication that can help an individual express his or her thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, etc., without being inhibited or aggressive or without disregarding the thoughts, feelings, views, opinions, and ideas of others. The term assertiveness was introduced by Andrew Salter in 1949. Being assertive can help you in both personal as well as professional life. If you are an assertive person, it is likely that you are better able to cope with anger, stress, and other demanding circumstances.

So who is an assertive individual and how is he different from a nonassertive individual? To understand this we have to consider the behavior styles of people in relation to others along a continuum (Dennis Jaffe, 1984), where passive and aggressive behavior lie at each end of the continuum and assertive behavior is right in middle of the two. Passive individuals are too scared to express their thoughts and feelings. Such persons are often shy and surrender to the demands of others in order to feel accepted, especially they find it difficult to say ‘no’. Passive style of behavior is used by people with codependent personality. On the other hand, an aggressive individual often tries to intimidate others and try to gain control of their thoughts, needs, and feelings. Such individuals have complete disregard of others’ feelings. This type of behavior style is often employed by individuals who display Type A behaviors. Now comes assertive style of behavior, which is the preferable style where an individual is able to express his or her thoughts and feelings and protect his or her rights without belittling others’. Such people are more open, considerate, and are tolerant of the feelings of others; also, they have high self-esteem and confidence level.

Assertiveness recognizes that there are legitimate personal rights, which have been described by various therapists and include the following:

  • Being able to say no without feeling guilty.
  • Having the right to change one’s mind regarding anything
  • To ask for help with directions or instructions
  • To ask for what you want
  • Being able to express or experience feelings
  • Right to feel positive under any circumstance
  • Right to commit mistakes without feeling embarrassed
  • To have one’s own opinion and beliefs
  • To object to unfair criticism or treatment
  • Being recognized for one’s achievements or contributions
  • To be able to take time to develop a response to a question or comment

Not every individual is born assertive. We are often less than assertive in our conduct towards certain people especially of higher authority, such as parents and bosses. However, not being assertive can also occur when we deal with someone by whom we feel intimidated. These can be people of opposite sex, individuals who are perceived as more attractive than us, and every unfamiliar person. Since assertiveness is a skill it can be learned and with repeated practice it can become part of our personality. Following techniques help a great deal in developing assertiveness:

Woman-saying-noLearn to say ‘No’: Saying ‘no’ is perhaps the most difficult thing to do for some individuals so much so that they put other people’s need before their own. Saying ‘no’ is sometimes considered rude, which is a misconception. Saying ‘yes’ when it is impossible for you to say so can lead to feelings of bitterness and victimization. That is why being able to say ‘no’ when you don’t feel like saying ‘yes’ is a critical attribute if you want to be assertive in life. Equally important is to learn saying ‘no’ without letting the feeling of guilt creep in. Understand and accept your limits and don’t feel bad about them. In case of personal obligations, try to diplomatically refuse your help at that particular instant.

Learn to use ‘I’ statements: Being assertive means being able to express one’s feelings and emotions by using ‘I’ statements. Learn to own your thoughts, feelings, opinions, ideas etc. Also, using ‘I’ statements doesn’t make the other person defensive because ‘I’ seems less accusatory. For example, “you are wrong” seems more attacking than “I disagree.”

Use eye contact: Assertive people are comfortable maintaining eye contact while interacting or expressing their thoughts to others. Lack of eye contact makes a person appear as having less conviction in what he or she is saying. It also indicates dishonesty and insecurity. Start using eye-contact while interacting with a short time interval of about 1-2 seconds and then progress up to 8-10 seconds period. But, beware! just as lack of eye contact indicates lack of confidence continuous staring is often taken as violation of personal space. So try to avoid staring at people.

Improve body language: Being assertive without appropriate body language sends mixed message to the other person. The way you carry your body plays an important role. It is important to have an erect posture with body weight equally distributed between both legs along with good eye contact and tone of voice. The center of gravity should be directly above the feet.

couple-talkingBe open to criticism: Learn to accept criticism positively. You can disagree with the criticism and have the right to convey your difference of opinion but you must do it without getting angry or defensive. Take negative feedback as an opportunity to learn something new or improve yourself.

Disagree peacefully: This skill is employed when one has to express a differing view and want it to be acknowledged too. When ideas and opinions are expressed peacefully so that different viewpoints can be analyzed properly during a conflict or during the process of decision making, such disagreements are considered as healthy disagreements. Being able to remain comfortable during a confrontation is the hallmark of assertiveness.

Practice: Like any other skill, assertiveness too requires practice, a lot of practice, in fact. Stand in front of a mirror and imagine different scenarios where being assertive would be beneficial, and practice your response. Work on your body language, your tone of voice, eye contact, and communication. Use assertive communication like ‘I’ statements, and ‘No’ statements. And remember to start small. At first, try assertiveness skills in situations where the risk is low and then gradually apply them to tougher situations where the stakes are high. For instance, before applying those in work place with your boss, try them out first with your friends or spouse. Evaluate the results so that you can improve your skills. Remember it takes time and practice to learn a new skill whether it’s playing a guitar, or badminton or developing assertiveness.

student in exam

Test Anxiety—Strategies to Overcome

What is Test Anxiety?

It is quite normal for students to feel a little stressed out and nervous before or during an exam, but when this nervousness becomes too much to let a student perform to the best of his or her abilities, it is termed as test anxiety. Test anxiety is a psychological condition which may not only impair learning but may also adversely affect test performance.

Test anxiety may be manifested in a variety of forms and the symptoms may range from mild to severe. Some students, despite experiencing stress and anxiety, do reasonably fine as their symptoms are rather mild. However, there are others whose abilities get seriously impaired because of excessive anxiety which is often also accompanied by panic attacks before or during the exam.

Apparently, test anxiety can make it fairly difficult for a student to focus and recall information that he or she has spent hours learning about. This would, in turn, contribute to even more anxiety and stress making it much more difficult for the student to recollect and write down the answers to the test.

Symptoms of Test Anxiety

The symptoms of test anxiety can be physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional:

Physical symptoms: Some of the common physical symptoms include sweating, dry mouth, rapid breathing, headache, racing heartbeat, a sense of shakiness, and even diarrhea. In more severe cases, nausea, shortness of breath, and full-blown panic attack or fainting might also be experienced.

Cognitive and behavioral symptoms: Test anxiety can also lead to behavioural and cognitive symptoms including fidgeting or forthright avoidance of testing situations, negative thinking, and difficulty concentrating on the test. Negative self-talk and racing thoughts are also some of the common cognitive symptoms of test anxiety.

Emotional symptoms: Depression, feeling of helplessness, low self-esteem, frustration, and fear comprise emotional symptoms of test anxiety. Students feel helpless, nervous and frightened to face the exams and report blanking out on answers to the test.

Strategies to Overcome Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is quite an unpleasant and unnerving experience which can adversely affect student’s grades as well as self-confidence. However, there are certain strategies that students can adopt to overcome test anxiety.

Being fully prepared for the test: It is very important for the student to spend adequate time for the preparation of the exam. This basically means starting early in order to have sufficient time to prepare until he or she feels comfortable with the material. Therefore, waiting until the night before should be avoided. If not sure how to effectively manage time for the preparation, the student should ask the teacher or parent for help. Being prepared will be a great confidence-booster, which will reduce test anxiety.

Keeping negative thoughts away: More than anything else, it’s the attitude and approach towards the test or exam that is going to make a difference in the performance. One should always stay positive. A student must not allow himself or herself to be demoralized by negative thoughts like, “I don’t remember anything, I studied,” “I can’t do it.” Rather one should convince one’s mind to believe that one remembers everything that has been learnt and studied. Positive thoughts will keep anxiety at bay and dramatically enhance the performance in the exam.

High school students

Getting involved in relaxation activities: Relaxation is as crucial as studies during exam preparation. Activities like deep breathing, mediation, positive self-talk and yoga can help calm the mind and boost the power of concentration and retention. Anxiety and excess energy can also be released by way of aerobic exercise which helps reduce body tension too.

Getting enough sleep: Even during exam days, getting adequate sleep and rest is as essential as preparing for the test. A good night’s sleep will help one concentrate better and boost the memory spontaneously.

Moving on from mistakes: It is okay to make mistakes. One should not remain stuck on mistakes and move on as early as possible to concentrate on what’s coming next. One mustn’t expect oneself to be perfect and so, rather than fretting over the mistakes already committed in a test, one should focus on the upcoming one, needless to say, without taking stress for that too. The next test should always be looked upon as an opportunity to make up for the mistakes committed in the previous test. Doing one’s best is all that matters, one should always remember that.

Keeping oneself full before the exam: One must not go to the exam with an empty stomach. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables helps reduce stress while processed foods, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, fried or junk food makes one feel lazy and thus, makes it equally important to choose among foods wisely.

Not paying attention to what others are doing: Anxiety may also build up if a student starts noticing others attempting their test. No one knows what the other is scribbling away, so one should stop worrying about that and focus on one’s own performance. To avoid test anxiety, a student should keep attempting his/her test instead of paying attention to what other students are doing.

Trying medication and therapy for severe symptoms: If a student feels that the symptoms are too severe for him/her to manage, he/she should contact the school counselor or a physician. If the stress and anxiety is too severe, anti-anxiety medications or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may be recommended by the physician to alleviate the symptoms.

How to Control and Manage Anger

Anger-Management-copy-300x200Just like happiness, fear, and love, etc. anger is an emotion we all have and experience from time to time. Anger is a normal emotion and can even be considered a healthy emotion too. Charles Spielberg a renowned psychologist and a pioneer in the field of anger has defined anger as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” However, if left unmanaged, anger can have a debilitating impact on your physical and psychological health as well as can ruin your social relationships.

Anger often leads to physiological changes like rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and secretion of hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anger can originate from internal factors like worrying or ruminating over personal problems as well as from external factors like when you get angry at a particular individual. Keeping in view the widespread impact of anger on the health and social life of an individual it becomes imperative to take measures to keep anger under control.

Pause: In many instances anger is often an impulsive response or like a knee-jerk. Whenever you feel that you are getting angry (look for physiological signs like rise in heart beat, breathing, clenching, etc.), pause for a while, and count to ten or maybe longer, if you feel like. The main idea is to let the moment go. Don’t jump to react on your impulse.

Relaxation: Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. These have been shown to relax the mind and manage anger caused by stress or other internal factors on long term basis as well. Deep breathing especially diaphragmatic breathing has been proven to help. Breathe through your gut, not from chest. While deep breathing you can repeat some calming words like “relax” or “calm down.” You can also incorporate imagery while doing relaxation exercises; imagine a peaceful and calm place; create a mental imagery of any place that helps you stay calm. With repeated practice you can use deep breathing and imagery technique in any situation that calls for anger and thereby manage it.

Exercise/sports: Exercise or engaging in some sort of sports activity is a good way to use up excess energy released during an anger episode. It also helps relieve stress. So, go for a brisk walk, or run, or play some sport whenever you feel your anger escalating. People with chronic anger issue especially benefit if they engage themselves in some regular sporting activity like boxing etc. Exercise and other physical activities have been shown to help release endorphins, the feel-good hormones.

angry_couple_istock_0000154_620x3501Right communication: One of the worst consequences of anger that can have a long-term impact on our life is how it negatively affects our relationships. It spoils the social life of the individual and in some extreme cases, leaves the person alone without any social support. It hampers marital life as well as work life of the individual. And the main cause is what you communicate to the other person when angry. Anger often makes the person reactive not responsive, so we tend to jump to conclusions that are far from being accurate. It is very important to have the right kind of communication even when you are agitated. So, when angry pause for a while think through the response you are going to give. Don’t just blurt out the word that comes to your mind, think carefully about your response.

Another important tip is to avoid the use of the word “you.” Rather, use “I” statements, these make the other person more responsive than defensive. So avoid sentences like “you never listen to me” use “I feel I am not being heard.” Listening is also a very important part of communication. In order to improve your communication, start working on your listening skills, try to understand what the other person is trying to convey to you. This is especially important if you have anger issues with your spouse or your boss.

Beware of negative self-talk: Be careful of the negative self-talk with words like “never,” “always,” “not fair.” When we use words like these in phrases while being angry, these words tend to justify your anger and do not help in managing anger. Rather, engage in positive self-talk like “this is not the end,” “I can handle it.”

Give your anger an outlet: Keeping anger within can have a long term effect on both your physical as well as psychological health. Suppressing anger can, in fact, worsen the situation. So give your anger a healthy outlet. Start writing journal, give your anger words and write them down, it could be about a situation that really made you mad but you couldn’t get angry, write those feelings in your journal. Whether with your boss or your spouse, journal writing could give a healthy outlet to your anger without damaging your equation with the person concerned. Write down every situation or instance where you wanted to let out your anger but couldn’t.

Humour: Use of humor can help you diffuse that anger bomb. Using imagery with humor can really help ease up the tension. If you have a particular person or situation that triggers anger in you, use of humor can really turn things around. Imagine the coworker at your office that you hate or that brings out the anger, imagine a funny cartoon face e.g., Mickey mouse and put that face over that person, now imagine him sitting in the office doing the work. Use this technique whenever that person’s name comes to your mind. Sometimes make a joke of the situation in your head. Give it a funny turn. But avoid use of sarcasm as it is hurtful and can make the situation worse.

Look after yourself: Eat balanced diet, have good sleep, and avoid alcohol consumption as these factors have been shown to play an important role in anger and its management.

Perspective: Anger, especially when it involves another person, often is the result of perspective. We tend to get in to blame game and thus justify our anger. So it is essential where anger involves another person to take a different perspective on the situation. Place yourself in another person’s situation and try to understand the circumstance from his or her point of view, you might find the solution as well.

Other: Sometimes the best way is to just avoid the situation that triggers your anger. So if you find yourself getting angry while standing in the long line of grocery store then probably you should avoid the time when there’s huge crowd and instead go for shopping when there are less people for shopping. Also, if you feel that you tend to get angry at your kids when you discuss about their day at school during dinner, then avoid the discussion during dinner time.

Seek professional help: If you feel that you are unable to manage your anger on your own, probably it’s time you seek help from a professional counselor or psychologist. Perhaps your anger is deep rooted and results from some underlying issue, or, you might be finding it difficult to stick to the program, so professional help might help with your motivation to stick to the anger management program.

How to Help Your Child Cope with Exam Stress: Tips for Parents

exam stress img 2Exam time is here again. This could be very stressful for most children as they work hard for good marks. Many children fear that they will not be able to get best grades and will lose respect of their friends and family and will miss out on career opportunities if they perform badly in exams. In the competitive world of today exam stress or anxiety has become quite common. Our duty as a parent becomes more important when the child is preparing for exams. There are several things that a parent can do to ease the exam pressure and help the child sail through this phase. Here are some tips which parents can follow during exams:

Time management: You as a parent should help your child to manage his or her time effectively and efficiently.  Time management becomes even more crucial during exams. Create a time table for each and every activity, like studying, revision, and make sure to include break time in between, meals, and even self-care. During exams, we seldom realize that our children’s brain needs rests too. Many of us, unfortunately, believe that during exams a child must only be studying. This is quite a misconception and creates extra stress and anxiety. Make time table with your child and put it in the study room. You should also make sure that entire exam schedule is known to you and your child especially if the child is very small.

Don’t add to your child’s stress: During exams, parents should make every effort to ease the burden of the child and not add to it. Parents should have realistic expectation from the child. Remember, each child has his or her own abilities. Having expectations that are too high for the child will only make the child feel more stressed and frustrated. The child might think that the task is impossible and might not even try hard enough. Of course, expectations sometimes act as motivators but keeping expectations that are unachievable will only lead to stress and poor performance during exams. Rather, encourage your child that he can do it and show faith in him. This will help them remain calm and composed during exams. Only a calm mind can perform extraordinarily during exams.

Be there for the child: During exams, parents must convey to their child that they are there for him regardless of the grades. Be an emotional support to your child apart from being physically there for the child. Try to understand the emotions the child might be going through. You might have to curtail some of your outings as well. But don’t create an atmosphere of curfew within the house. The child knowing that my parents will always love me irrespective of my grades is a great emotional support.

Take care of your child: This includes taking care of the food and sleep of your child. Make sure the child has his or her food regularly. Make sure the child eats healthy food only. Fresh fruits and juices should be part of the diet of the child normally but during exams it is all the more important that the child eats healthy only and avoids consuming sugar and junk food as they tend to make the child feel sleepy. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, keep the mind fresh and active. Also make sure that the child remains hydrated.

Sleep is another very critical aspect during exams. Often parents, and sometimes even the children, feel that they should not sleep much during exams. This is very wrong. Our brain too requires rest and time to consolidate everything learnt, and this is done during sleep. A good night sleep before exams is very important, so make sure your child gets enough sleep.

Take breaks: Encourage your child to take breaks during preparation. This could be a 15 – 20 minute walk in the park, or some play activity, or could be meditation, watching TV, or talking to a friend over phone. Many parents restrict the child from such activities during preparation as they believe that these activities waste time. This is wrong; just like any other electronic device our brain too needs to switch off for a little while to maintain the functioning. Therefore, make sure that your child gets regular breaks in between preparation.

Discuss the exam and move on: Preparing for the exams is not the only stressful part; even the after-exam discussion could be equally dreadful for some children. Not everyone performs exceptionally well in the exams. Don’t dissect the performance of the child; this might negatively affect the performance of the child in the coming exam. Discuss with them but don’t over criticize, and just move on. You can discuss about the mistakes done and how to improve them in the next exam but don’t shout or reprimand the child.

Exam strategy: Discuss with your child and make a strategy about how to attempt the question paper. Suggest techniques to make answer more presentable, which questions should be answered first, how to divide time during exams, etc.

Stationery: It might sound trivial but many times, children sit in the exam and later realize they are not carrying pen or other stationary items and end up wasting time by asking others. You as a parent should make sure that the child has enough pens, pencils, or rubber etc before exam and during all the exams. Make sure that the pencil-box or kit is filled with working stationary items and not with used or empty pens. This might seem like a little thing but it can save a lot of time during exam and help avoid undue anxiety.

Easy Ways to Overcome Procrastination

iStock_000020407072_MediumHamlet was not the only one who struggled with procrastination. We all have been there, done that. In fact, there would hardly be anyone who has never been guilty of procrastinating at one point or another in his or her life. This human flaw of inaction and deferring tasks to tomorrow or distant future is engraved deep into his psyche. However, beyond a certain limit, procrastination may turn into a nuisance and have detrimental effects on the mental health of a chronic procrastinator whose mind is constantly troubled by the sense of pendency of an important task and a conflicting lack of will to apply himself to that very task. Here are some easy ways for you to overcome procrastination and get things done:

Accept that you are procrastinating: First and foremost, you need to recognize and accept that you are actually procrastinating. Stop passing the buck and admit that it is you who is putting off the task and not the external factors that are making you do it. Know that you are procrastinating if you are filling your days with low-priority tasks, not taking up an important work for too long or waiting to get in the right mood to perform that task. Once you know you are procrastinating, it is easier to understand that the next step is nothing but to act.

Break your work into smaller tasks: One of the reasons why we procrastinate is because the work, at times, feels too big and overwhelming. The best way to approach a big task is to break it into smaller sections, thus turning a mammoth work into a more manageable one comprising do-able fragments. Taking up one section at a time will not only make it appear more achievable but also reduce the pressure of completing it all in one go. Keep breaking down the task further until you find it so simple to not overwhelm you.

Tell people about your goals: The best way to not fall prey to procrastination is to let others know of your plans. This will make them curious and they would ask you about the updates on those projects. This will not only keep you motivated to be ready with something to tell them about, but the appreciation you receive on your progress and people’s interest will give you a sense of purpose and encouragement.

Cultivate the right attitude: As they say, “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. It takes you nowhere.” Every single task in this world is accomplished with intent to begin. Try to cultivate optimism and confidence in you. Make yourself believe that you have what it takes. Inculcate the correct attitude in you, stay positive about the outcome, and focus more on the process rather than the result.

Forgive yourself for past procrastination: Oftentimes we keep fretting over our past mistakes instead of making any positive change in our present. Forgive yourself for the time you have wasted in the past and take action.

Make a commitment today: Commit to yourself and don’t defer the first move to tomorrow. Step out of your comfort zone and push yourself a little harder. Keep doing that for a couple of days. Once a few days pass by, you would realize that you have already picked up momentum and a substantial amount of work has already been done.  This will motivate you further and help you get rid of procrastination.

Don’t be afraid of failure: Another major reason why people procrastinate is that they are afraid of failure; especially the ones who are perfectionists are inevitably more prone to procrastination.

Setting high standards is not a bad thing but being paranoid about them may have a considerably negative impact on people’s efficiency and outcome because while targeting perfectionism, they unconsciously convince themselves that there’s no way they’ll be able to meet those standards and therefore, just let the task linger on.

It is, therefore, pertinent to not let the fear of not being able to attain perfection get in the way of your progress. In this context, it is wise to bear in mind what the American writer Jodi Picoult said, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Never forget that it is more important to do something, even if imperfectly, rather than not do anything at all just because you think you can’t do it perfectly.

Tips for Responsible Parenting

 

Unique-ParentingRaising a child is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying experiences in the world. However, it is also among some of the most difficult jobs. As good parents, you strive to make decisions in the best interest of your child. However, to see your child grow into an individual who respects and reflects the values you’ve endeavored to instill in him or her, requires a lot of commitment and dedication on your part and incorporating a judicious mix of important elements such as love, forgiveness, compassion, discipline and, most importantly, leading by example in your daily conduct and interactions. Remember, no one is perfect—neither a good parent nor a good child and we should always keep this in mind when we set our expectations. However, at the same time, we should keep working around our ultimate goal of raising a good human being who can contribute positively and meaningfully to the world. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for effective parenting to raise a well-rounded child:

  1. Love

Love is the answer to everything. Some parents think that loving their child too much would spoil him/her. Now that’s a myth. It is how you interpret and equate love with, is what makes the major difference. Being lenient, expecting less, being overprotective and allowing undue material indulgence in the name of love contributes most to spoiling the child. Love does not have to be ostentatious. Simple acts like hugging, spending quality time with your child, and being sensitive and responsive to your child’s needs can go a long way in reassuring your child of your love. As these acts release feel-good hormones like oxytocin, prolactin, and opioids, they bring tranquility and emotional warmth to the child and help him/her develop resilience and a feeling of self worth.

  1. Modeling

Modeling means teaching the child by example or making him/her learn by observing others. Parents can use modeling as a strategy to influence their child positively. So it is important that before setting high standards for your child, you have set those for yourself. Parents serve as the most influential role model to the child. Human brain contains mirror neurons (nerve cells) which become extremely active when we observe something. Therefore, it is pertinent for you as a parent to model behavior that you wish your child to learn.

  1. Appreciation

Appreciation refers to demonstrating approval. It plays an important role, when done systematically, in shaping your child’s personality and conduct. It also helps develop self-confidence in your child and helps him/her discern right from wrong. In parent-child relationship, this translates as care, concern, respect, fair treatment and courtesy and prevents the child from feeling neglected. Appreciate your child enthusiastically and effusively to make it more effective and reinforce good behavior. Praise should always be exact, clearly stated, and immediate, following the desired behavior. However, as a sensible parent you should avoid inane praise.

  1. Discipline

We need to understand that discipline is something you do for a child. Discipline is neither punishment nor unpleasant. It is a positive learning experience that sets behavioral limits and guidelines to lead the child to and through adulthood. The idea is to allow the child to progress from parental discipline to self-discipline. Remember, a child who has not been disciplined with love by his parent will be disciplined, generally without love, by the world.

Always temper discipline with love and logic to make it more effective and let your child perceive it as positive, loving, gentle guidance. Don’t forget, discipline is a positive thing and one of the most important tools that you can ever give to your child for his future success and happiness.

  1. Communication

Communication is very important for parent-child relationship and it becomes even more critical as the child grows. A healthy communication with your child lets you build his/her self-esteem and strengthen the relation between both of you which makes parenting job a little easier. However, you must not expect your children to confide in you just like that. You have to make constant efforts to keep the communication channel open between you and your child early on, and give him/her the confidence to speak his/her mind in front of you. Begin with sharing your own thoughts with your child so that he/she too can learn to share his/her with you.

  1. Safe Haven

Being a safe haven for the child is an indispensable aspect of good parenting. We all need safe place, to flourish and your child is no exception. Your child should always be sure that and you will always be there for him/her as pillars of support even when times are rough. Support and accept your child as an individual and be consistently responsive to his/her needs. Let your child explore the world and receive his/her mistakes with patience and grace, to allow him/her to learn from those mistakes.

  1. Spend quality time

The importance of spending quality time with children cannot be stressed enough. In this fast-paced world, you must make space for your child, and assure him/her that you care about him/her. Spend as much time with your child as possible. It would be an opportunity to bond with your child and get to know him/her better. Time is a precious commodity and you should spend it on your most precious possession. Be with your child to learn new things about him/her, and the quirky events in his/her lives.

  1. Do not yell

If you yell at your child, it will make him/her disregard the message and discipline will be even harder because each time you raise your voice, his/her receptivity lowers down. Besides, it will be a bad influence on the child too, who will do what he/she sees you doing. Use logical reasoning to get through to your child.

  1. Use positives instead of negatives

Parents seldom realize that while telling their child to behave they are actually (unintentionally) telling him/her the exact opposite. The problem lies with the words used. For positive results, you should use encouraging positive words in place of negative ones. For instance, instead of “don’t do this” or “don’t shout,” use positive words like “do this” or “speak softly.” This works on the same principle as telling your mind “do not think about a peacock” only to find that you have rather started thinking about a peacock. You will notice a significant difference in your child’s behavior once you replace the negatives with positives.

 

Five Tips for Better Sleep

img_4116Sleep plays an important role in maintaining your mental health and well-being. Healthy sleep habits can significantly improve your quality of life. However, in today’s world, when there are already so many distractions, sleeping on time and getting restful slumber is not that easy and simple. So here are some tips that can help you realise your dream to sleep better.

1. Avoid taking caffeine late in the evening: Caffeine is known to disrupt sleep because of its stimulating effects that take hours to fade. Therefore, avoid taking tea or coffee late in the evening.

2. Follow your sleep schedule strictly: Don’t mess with your bedtime and wake-up time, even on the weekends. Following the same sleep schedule every day sets the body’s internal clock. Therefore, wake up at the same time even if you did not sleep well the night before, it will fortify your sleep routine.

3. Go to sleep only when tired enough to sleep: Don’t force yourself to sleep, if you’re not asleep after 20 minutes. Rather read a book or watch TV at low volume until you are tired enough to sleep.

4. Include exercise in your daily routine: Regular exercise helps you fall asleep faster but finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime, because the stress hormone cortisol secreted by the body during exercise activates the alerting mechanism in the brain and thus interferes with sleep.

5. Avoid daytime naps: If you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, it might be because of long daytime naps. However, if you can’t do without naps, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes.