Tag

self care

But First, Settle into the New Normal

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Let’s face it, parents have a big job to do when life is “normal,” never mind when we are living in this new normal. Parents are being bombarded with information from every corner of your life—even all of us at NESCA are blogging every day to help parents with information. Packets of educational information are being sent home, online learning classes are being arranged, etc. Talk about information overload. Are you feeling overwhelmed or saturated yet? Do you need a break from it all, even though we are only in week two of this pandemic in the United States?  Some parents are worried about their child’s education and, perhaps, their special education services. I get it. Many federal and state agencies as well as local school districts are trying to figure this out as we speak. This is a time to exercise patience with yourself, your leaders and your family members as we figure this new normal out.

Many of you are not teachers and, even if you are a teacher, teaching your own child is different than teaching your class. To your son/daughter, you are mom/dad—not their teacher.  So, trying on this new role isn’t going to be easy. If you aren’t a teacher, you may feel ill-equipped or may not even not know where to begin in doing these new educational tasks with your children. Even in the best of circumstances, children may “regress” or not learn new content during this time period. It is what it is. They can learn new and different things that aren’t in this realm—something we’ll continue to elaborate on in future blogs.

In the midst of this new normal, you are also home trying to figure out your own new rhythm of working from home or being unemployed, etc. Take the next few weeks to settle into this new normal. We are creating new rhythms as we are all at home trying to work, play, live and love each other. Most importantly during this time, don’t forget to enjoy each other, love each other and have some fun. Given all the tasks being asked of you, be realistic. Ask yourself what you are capable of doing given your circumstances and life realities. Don’t set your expectations too high, or you will be disappointed. Try to create structure out of chaos before you even begin to “be your child’s teacher.”

Words of advice:

  • Smile each day upon waking – make the best of the day
  • Live in the moment – one day at a time
  • Have fun and laugh every day – create moments of laughter and joy, as these are the moments that will be remembered
  • Breathe, and do it deliberately – use a reminder on your smart watch, fitness tracker or phone
  • Communicate honestly with each other
  • Be flexible – know there will be curveballs thrown your way
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself and your family members

These helpful hints will hopefully make each day go a little smoother! We are all in this together.

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Now is a Great Time to Practice Self-compassion

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Cynthia Hess, PsyD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow

In this new era of social distancing, and where homeschooling has gone from being an exception to a new way of life, many are feeling confused, overwhelmed and wondering what to do next. Many parents have found themselves adrift in a sea of uncertainty without a compass. In her New York Times article titled, I Refuse to Run a Coronavirus Home School, Dr. Jennie Weiner discusses the perils of comparing ourselves with other parents on social media and of setting unrealistic expectations that we are going to navigate this wild period of uncertainty perfectly and with grace. Parents who are working at home may be feeling as though they are unable to meet the demands of parenting, teaching, and performing at their jobs, leading to feelings of inadequacy. About her own family’s experience, she states, “We love each other, we yell, we apologize, we laugh, [her kids] punch each other, we yell some more, we make up. We live, we try to be compassionate and we hope this will all be a memory soon. And when it’s over, the schoolwork will be there.”

Within the context of uncertainty and inevitable change, there are opportunities to help kids develop important life skills. While reading and math are certainly an important part of a child’s education, there are many “soft skills” that lead to healthy outcomes in life. At school these softer skills are nurtured when children are asked to wait patiently in line; whether it’s for gym class, lunch or a turn on the swing. In the classroom they are expected to listen to others, raise their hand or wait to be called on by their teacher. Navigating these tasks requires children to monitor their behavior, plan for when it’s their turn, direct their attention to their goals and be respectful. Many of these soft skills are already practiced at home and in the course of everyday life. Children are learning while waiting for their turn to play a game or watch a show. They are also learning while waiting for a parent to play a game, watch a show or read a book with them. Times like these can be very challenging for children and their parents, but learning to manage the often-inevitable frustration, anger and/or disappointment, helps children become more resilient and self-reliant – skills that are not always overtly taught, but are important as children continue to grow into adulthood. Be gentle with yourself knowing that at any given moment you are doing your best, and that is good enough.

As we all head down this path of uncertainty, Dr. Weiner suggests that we meet this new challenge head on, holding our breath, crossing our fingers and accepting that it’s going to be messy and that is okay. At the end of the day, tell yourself gently: “I love you. You did the best you could today, and even if you didn’t accomplish all you had planned, I love you anyway.”

To read Dr. Weiner’s article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/opinion/coronavirus-home-school.html?referringSource=articleShare

 

About the Author

Dr. Cynthia Hess recently graduated from Rivier University with a PsyD in Counseling and School Psychology. Previously, she earned an M.A. from Antioch New England in Applied Psychology. She also worked as an elementary school counselor and school psychologist for 15 years before embarking on her doctorate. During her doctorate, she did her pre-doctoral internship with RIT in Rochester, N.Y. where she worked with youth ages 5-17 who had experienced complex developmental trauma. Dr. Hess’s first post-doctoral fellowship was with The Counseling Center of New England where she provided psychotherapy and family therapy to children ages 5-18, their families and young adults. She also trained part-time with a pediatric neuropsychologist conducting neuropsychological evaluations. Currently, Dr. Hess is a second-year post-doctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychological assessment, working with NESCA Londonderry’s Dr. Angela Currie and Dr. Jessica Geragosian.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert neuropsychologists, please complete our online intake form

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Managing Stress in Stressful Times

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Cynthia Hess, PsyD
Pediatric Neuropsychologist Fellow

News of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is everywhere. The outbreak of the Coronavirus, or any critical event of this magnitude, can be stressful for people and communities. For some, the anxiety can be overwhelming. Children may also be experiencing stress and anxiety as news spreads through classrooms and on the playground. Furthermore, they are likely being asked to wash their hands or use sanitizer more frequently than ever before; a constant reminder of the seriousness of the situation, often without a having clear understanding of why these actions are important. As with any critical incident, it is important to maintain open communication with children and provide them with factual information, without going into too much detail, especially when the specifics are changing every minute. With regards to children:

  • Answer any questions they may have honestly and in a way they will understand. You may not know all the answers, but it’s important that they know that they have someone with whom they can share their concerns.
  • Encourage your child/children to share information they may have heard about the coronavirus with you and to share their feelings about it. Correct any misinformation they have heard, also in a way that they can understand.
  • Reassure your child that the risk of COVID-19 infection still remains low, at least at this time, and remind them that children seem to be having milder symptoms.
  • Limit children’s exposure to the news.

When events happen in our world that feel out of control, we often experience high levels of stress. Now is a great time for everyone, including parents and caregivers, to remember to practice self-care and self-compassion. Acknowledge your own feelings of stress and anxiety and accept that they are a natural response to a critical situation and one over which we have no control. With that in mind:

  • Exercise is a great tool for managing stress and anxiety. Try to carve out time to move your body by keeping up with a current exercise regimen or going for a walk.
  • Practice mindful breathing. Deep breathing reminds your brain that you are okay. These exercises can be short, 30-60 seconds of a mindful activity that relieves the pressure that intense periods of stress and anxiety create. They can also be done with children. One technique is breathing in for the count of 4, holding your breath for 7, and exhaling for 8. Do this 3-or-4 times and notice the relief.
  • Try using a grounding technique where you look for 5 things you see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing in the present moment that you are grateful for. This exercise focuses on your senses, which are present moment experiences.
  • Pay attention to your sleep and make sure you are getting enough rest.

For more advice for managing this uncharted territory in which we find ourselves, several helpful websites are listed below.

Keep calm and breathe, and remember, this too shall pass.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts.html

https://www.cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/helping-children-cope.html

https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/coping.html

 

About the Author

Dr. Cynthia Hess recently graduated from Rivier University with a PsyD in Counseling and School Psychology. Previously, she earned an M.A. from Antioch New England in Applied Psychology. She also worked as an elementary school counselor and school psychologist for 15 years before embarking on her doctorate. During her doctorate, she did her pre-doctoral internship with RIT in Rochester, N.Y. where she worked with youth ages 5-17 who had experienced complex developmental trauma. Dr. Hess’s first post-doctoral fellowship was with The Counseling Center of New England where she provided psychotherapy and family therapy to children ages 5-18, their families and young adults. She also trained part-time with a pediatric neuropsychologist conducting neuropsychological evaluations. Currently, Dr. Hess is a second-year post-doctoral fellow in pediatric neuropsychological assessment, working with NESCA Londonderry’s Dr. Angela Currie and Dr. Jessica Geragosian.

 

To schedule an appointment with one of NESCA’s expert neuropsychologists, please complete our online intake form

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

Special Holiday Edition: ‘Tis the Season for Self-Care

By | NESCA Notes 2017

 

By:  Jackie Reinert, Psy.D. LMHC
Pediatric Neuropsychologist

As a child, the idea of Christmas meant cookies, presents, time with family, and of course, giving up TGIF’s Full House in favor of holiday movies. Everything from Scrooged to A Miracle on 34th Street to Home Alone, and every clay animated favorite served as the framework for my formulation of what the holidays truly meant; “It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.” Frank Cross’s commentary on Christmas set expectations high, and year after year, we hoped to top the magic and splendor of the previous year’s festivities.

As a parent, the holiday season conjures up warm memories of childhood, ignites aspirations to establish new traditions, and creates opportunities to share experiences with our loved ones, particularly our children. The magic of the holidays can also cultivate high expectations; to act nicer, smile easier, and to cheer more. These expectations more often than not exceed our capacity to truly encapsulate the hopes and aspirations we drum up in our heads. High expectations can pave the way for increased levels of perceived stress.

The American Psychological Association recently released its annual review, Stress in America (November, 2017), which indicates the United States has reached its highest stress level yet. Acute arousal stress in isolation can activate and enhance mobilization, sharpening our concentration and preparing our bodies to engage in challenging tasks, such as wrapping those last two presents and baking another round of cookies. This basic human reaction known as the “flight-or-fight” response has served us well, priming our bodies to flee or combat unsafe situations; however, our bodies can also overreact to simple, non-threatening situations, such as holiday pressure, financial difficulties, and increasing family demands.

Chronic stress has far more lasting and serious complications, particularly when it exceeds our ability to cope and leads to emotional and physical dysregulation. Stress is negatively related to our coping potential and our perception of control, which decreases use of problem-solving coping strategies and increases negative coping strategies, such as alcohol consumption and avoidance tactics (Rui Gomes, Faria, & Gonçalves, 2013). Individuals who experience elevations in stress and engage in maladaptive coping strategies such as drinking more alcohol, complaining, sleeping less, and consuming unhealthy foods which increase chances of becoming physically and mentally run down.

For parents, the added stress of the holidays and high expectations can have a significant impact on not only themselves, but those around them. Research suggests that adults are more likely to find family responsibilities stressful than they have in the past (APA, November, 2017). High expectations can make capturing the perfect holiday, particularly when parenting a child with special needs, a stressful time, leading to feelings of resentment (“I’m doing all of this and no one is helping me”), frustration (“I have no time to fit this all in”), and disappointment (“It seems like they didn’t have a good time”).

This year, I encourage you to lower your holiday expectations, increase self-care and self-compassion. While practicing self-care may be the furthest thing from your mind, the following may offer some reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

  1. Expect that things will go wrong, and that’s okay. Someone will get sick, you might burn a dish, and yes, that’s okay. Avoid catastrophic thinking, a common cognitive distortion where we imagine and worry about the worst possible situation, either consciously or subconsciously. For example, your ability to prepare the perfect holiday dinner for twelve people is an act, not a representation of how good of a person you are. You are not the sum of how well-executed things are, how perfectly the house looks, how your children act.
  1. Practice self-regulation and utilize coping skills. The easiest way to understand the subtle difference between these two concepts is to imagine yourself in a car, driving down I-90 into Boston and someone cuts you off. To access a coping skil to manage your anger, you would first need to pull off the highway, put the car in park, and throw on your hazard lights. Conversely, if you were utilizing a self-regulation skill, you could continue driving and manage your thoughts and feelings in the moment. Self-regulation is the ability to modulate our emotions and impulses, to keep ourselves in check, whereas coping is a process or actions that help you manage difficult emotions. Examples of self-regulation skills include diaphragmatic breathing (learn more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFcQpNr_KA4&t=140s) and box breathing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP4Jxxhhzl0). Coping skills can include meditation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bs0qUB3BHQ), and progressive muscle relaxation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo).
  1. Practice micro-moments of positivity. Research suggests that rather than pursue the perfect gift to demonstrate your love for a family member, seeking out opportunities to be present and make a meaningful connection have a more lasting effect (Heshmati, Oravecz, Pressman, Bathcelder, Muth, & Vandekerckhove, 2017). Crawling into bed and reading a holiday book with your children, or complete a small craft together can have a more lasting impact that securing a sloth Fingerling for them. You can read more about micro-moments here: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence
  1. Opt outside! Research suggests that spending time in nature can have a significant effect on mood (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence) and can increase sun exposure and the benefits of Vitamin D. Locate a winter wonderland hike here: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2016/01/11/winter-hiking-massachusetts/
  1. Finally, don’t forget about self-care. Self-care is a deliberate act to support and nurture your physical and mental health. Taking care of yourself not only helps you but those around you. There are several TED talks highlighting the benefit of self-care: https://www.ted.com/playlists/299/the_importance_of_self_care

 

About the Author:

Dr. Reinert is a Pediatric Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellow who joined NESCA in September 2017. Dr. Reinert assists with neuropsychological and psychological (projective) assessments in the Newton office and in the Londonderry office. In addition to assisting with neuropsychological evaluations, Dr. Reinert co-facilitates parent-child groups and provides clinical consultation. Before joining NESCA Dr. Reinert worked in a variety of clinical settings, including therapeutic schools, residential treatment programs and in community mental health. She has comprehensive training in psychological assessment, conducting testing with children, adolescents, and transitional-aged adults with complex trauma. Dr. Reinert is particularly interested in researching the intersectionality of ASD and gender exploration.

 

To book a consultation with one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.