Art Therapy For Anxiety

In the psychology community, art therapy continues to gain traction for outstanding results and benefits, all backed by valid and reliable research. In Indigenous communities, it has always been known that art, in several unique forms, can be a way of healing. To top it off, some exercises are so simple they don’t require professional facilitation. They can be done from the comfort of home, in a school setting, via teleconference, or in a clinical setting!

Reports of anxiety for both adults and children are at an all-time high. Understandably so when we are facing a global pandemic! So let’s walk through three different art therapy exercises that focus on anxiety.

 

  1. Create A Mind-Body Connection

As adults, we are aware that our bodies and minds are closely connected. Youth need to be taught the concept about how mental and physical health are interwoven and are not separate. This exercise helps achieve that.

First, ask the child you are working with to draw the outline of a body. If they are not able to do this, print out the outline of a body.

Next, ask the child to think about feelings in their own body when they are anxious. Ask them to think if there body is feeling tension, pain, or discomfort. Depending on the child’s age, you may want to consider using simplified vocabulary.

Have the child pick a coloured pencil, crayon, marker, or paint for each physical feeling (ex., red stands for pain). Then, have the child colour in the areas of the body accordingly. Take a look at the example photo below:

 

  1. The 1 Minute Brain Dump

Want something efficient for discovering the cause of anxiety for your student or child? The 1 Minute Brain Dump is great, and is also super effective for groups!

  • Simply ask your child to draw a large circle. This large circle is going to be a thought bubble.
  • Set a timer for one minute.
  • Tell your child to write down all of the things that are making them anxious in that thought bubble before the timer goes.

The key to this exercise is that having such a short time frame to write down feelings allows the child to “dump out”  anxieties without overthinking, minimizing, or rationalizing them away.

After this minute is up, be sure to go over each topic the child has listed. Having a healthy dialogue about these topics, offering reassurance, and helping problem-solve can help dissipate feelings of anxiety. For example, a child could list the name of a friend as a source of anxiety. They may say that they are worried they aren’t friends anymore because they have not got to spend time with them since school closed. You can tell your child, “I understand you feel that way. What can we do about it?” Brainstorming tangible steps, such as calling the friend, making them a picture, or sending them a letter will not only teach your child problem-solving skills, but will also help ease anxiety.

Take a look at an example of a Brain Dump below:

  1. Affirmation Cards

You may have heard of or seen affirmation cards before. Perhaps you have some yourself! What makes these affirmation cards unique within art therapy is that your child or student can create them specifically to their own needs, thus making them that much more effective!

If you haven’t heard of them, don’t worry! They are a series of affirmative statements written on cards. You can also draw images and choose colours associated with the affirmation. When an anxious thought intrudes, your child can look through the affirmation cards, say the affirmation out loud, and ground themselves in the present. Affirmation cards help get us in the “here and now” instead of staying stuck in anxious cycles in our heads. They can be placed in a desk, carried in a backpack or purse, or simply in pockets! Examples of affirmation statements are:

  • This too shall pass
  • Breathe calmly
  • The future is good
  • I am free
  • I am not in danger, just uncomfortable
  • I have control over my thoughts
  • Find gratitude for three things

Check out the example below!

A reminder for all art therapy exercises is that they do not have to be works of art. No one has to see the finished product, unless the child wishes to show it. The idea is for the child to produce a physical extension of what is going on in their body and mind to facilitate discussions with a trusted adult, and most importantly, to move in the direction of healing.

 

Work Cited:

Art Therapy Resources. (2020). Art therapy resources for anxiety. Retrieved from: https://arttherapyresources.com.au/therapy/anxiety-disorders/

 

Psychological First Aid For Schools: Listen, Connect & Protect Model

The American Psychiatric Association acknowledged in 1954 that there is a need to intervene when individuals experience stress caused by environmental reasons. Today, research supports the idea that immediate, concise, and focused intervention can decrease the social and emotional distress after a traumatic event. This is done by inaugurating the feelings of physical and emotional safety among children and adults. Therefore, this article will focus on summarizing the Psychological First Aid for Schools: Listen Protect Connect (LPC) Model and Teach.

Therefore, this article will focus on summarizing the Psychological First Aid for Schools: Listen Protect Connect (LPC) Model and Teach.
The LPC is a model to prompt and help focus on supporting and giving assistance to students by teachers. This five-step program includes procedures on how to communicate with children who have gone through a crisis, that interrupted their regular learning environment, such as death and school lockdowns. However, it is also directly relevant to the current COVID-10 pandemic which significantly disrupted the lives of children and adults around the world. These steps are based on a model of cognitive and behaviour learning, which teaches children how to put their experiences into words. It also provides them with support and encouragement by engaging in problem solving strategies, and towards the end students are taught about how traumatic stress can affect human behaviour.

 Step 1 – Listen

Molly of Denali (2020)

Teachers should allow their students to share their experiences and feelings of worry, anxiety, fear, or concerns about their safety. The teachers should establish rapport and a trust with the student by engaging in their interest and empathy. Students should also know it’s safe and okay to share their experiences. Here, the teachers can ask the following questions:

  • Tell me how you have been affected by the stay at home orders during the pandemic?
  • What is your schedule like from Monday through Friday?

Step 2 – Protect

Molly of Denali (2020)

The school staff should try to establish feelings of emotional and physical safety among their students. This can be done by offering information, such as what is being done in the community and the school to keep everyone safe. Here, the school staff can ask the following questions:

  • Are you worried about your safety or the safety of others?
  • What are you most worried about right now?

Step 3 – Connect

Molly of Denali (2020)

One of the biggest concern for people who have experienced trauma is the fear of emotional and social isolation. In this step, teachers help students to get back into their normal relationships in order to receive social support. This can be done via online learning environments which promote a sense of belonging and stability. Here, teachers can ask the following questions:

  • What can your friends or family do to help you?
  • What do you think you can do to make things better?

 

Step 4 – Model

Molly of Denali (2020) 

In this step, the teachers acknowledge the disruption to school and many other aspects of daily life. They also acknowledge the needs of students and others around them when they “get back to normal.” This means that teachers should demonstrate a positive and enthusiastic approach to a new normal by showing that they can effectively cope with the stress despite the fear or loss they’ve experienced. Here, they can say the following things:

  • Thank you for the courage you have shown throughout the process and for sharing your concerns with me.
  • Let’s brainstorm some of the ways other students and adults are coping.

Step 5 – Teach

Molly of Denali (2020)

In this step, teachers and psychologists focus on teaching common reactions to the emergency event or disaster. They discuss constructive ways of adapting and coping to new challenges and the change because students may have a more difficult time learning during or after a crisis. Here are the list of common reactions among children that may cause them new worries and distress:

  • Emotional reactions: increased worries and fears about health and safety
  • Behavioural reactions: decreased attention, changes in sleep, and mood
  • Cognitive reactions: repeated questions about the event & trauma reminders
  • Physical reactions: increase startle response, somatic complaints i.e., headaches, stomachaches, lack of appetite, tired

How to Engage Parents and Caregivers of Students of Concern (SOC)

Molly of Denali (2020)

Here are the list of questions that teachers can ask parents and caregivers of students during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. I have been thinking about [name the student] and wondering how you and/or your family are doing?
  2. How have you and your family been impacted by pandemic and all the shutdowns?
  3. So who is all home now?
  4. Has it been possible for [name the student] to find some time to do some schoolwork?

While asking these questions, teachers should focus on improving adult-to-adult relationships. The genuine connections you make with the parents and caregivers will lay the groundwork for your success with their child (student) as well. It is also important to understand who may be able to offer support to a student and who may have elevating family anxiety.Due to this, make sure you have such discussions with the parents. Use the final phase of your conversation to summarize everything you talked about. Remember, if you do have a difficult conversation with a family, consult with your supervisor, colleagues, Whole Child Wellness support team, and other teachers in order to decide the right course of action.

 

 

References:

Wong, M, (2020). Psychological First Aid (PFA) for Schools, Teachers, and Students. North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. Retrieved from http://nactatr.com/files/2020NACTATR-PFA.pdf

Cameron, J.K., Wong, M., & Rivard, P.G. (2020). Appendix B- Guidelines: For Administrators in Support of their Teachers and Staff: How to Engage Parents and Caregivers of Students of Concern (SOC). North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response. Retrieved from http://nactatr.com/files/2020NACTATR-RCApxB.pdf

 

Battling the Mental Health Curve: A Preventative Approach

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the 3rd leading cause of disease burden worldwide was depression and that depression was predicted to become the leading cause by 2030.

  • In Canada, the chances of having a mental illness or a substance use disorder in your lifetime is 1 in 3 (Pearson, Janz & Ali, 2015).
  • The percentage of people who die by suicide who had a diagnosable mental illness is 90% (Kirby & Keon, 2004).
  • The chances of experiencing or having a mental illness by the time you reach the age of 40 is 1 in 2 (Center for Addiction & Mental Health, 2019).
  • Canadians 15 years of age or older in the past 12 month period who reported symptoms consistent with either a major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, a generalized anxiety disorder, or alcohol/drug abuse was 2.8 million (Canadian Community Health Survey, 2012).
  • The rate of completed suicides amongst First Nations ages 15-24 is 5 to 7 times higher than the Canadian average for the same age group (Kahn, 2008).
  • First Nations people experience depression 2 times more than the national average (Khan, 2008).

Now, these are some bleak statistics. What is the point of sharing them? Awareness. Also, to bring introspection to another curve we will be facing as Canadians that we need to collectively flatten: the mental health curve.

The battle against the additional mental health consequences and current, exasperated mental health conditions due to COVID-19 is just beginning. Thankfully, we have qualified individuals and researchers who are working to combat that rise. However, you don’t need to be a doctor or have a PhD to do preventative care and upkeep of mental health. If done correctly, both result in an increase in overall mental health and well-being and less of a drain on the medical system in terms of healthcare, treatments, reactionary work, and so much more. You get the idea.

It is really easy for our own mental health rhythms to become uncoordinated when an upheaval in our lives occur. Even more so when a drastic upheaval, like COVID-19, occurs. Be gentle with yourself and with others in your life if your mental health has taken a turn. Experts are coming to a resounding consensus that we return to and stick to the basics to help make change. Take a look at the following preventative tips that can help:

 

Stuck at home? Out of ideas for activities? Try these!

And lastly, if you or someone you know needs additional supports outside the home, there is help. Please take a look at the following resources that are social distancing friendly and provide quality, expert help to both adults and children.

 

 

 

Resources:

Canadian Community Health Survey. (2012). Retrieved from:

https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/130918/dq130918a-eng.htm

 

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (2019). Mental illness and addictions: Facts and

statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/driving-change/the-crisis-is-real/mental-health-statistics

 

Khan, S. (2008). Aboriginal health: The statistical reality. Retrieved from:

http://www.heretohelp .bc.ca /visions/aboriginal-people-vol5/aboriginal-mental-health-the-statistical-reality

 

Kirby, M. & Keon, W. (2004). Mental health, mental illness and addiction: Overview of

policies and programs in Canada. Retrieved from: https://mdsc.ca/docs/MDSC_ Quick_Facts_4th_Edition_EN.pdf

 

Pearson, C., Janz, T. & Ali, J. (2015). Mental and substance use disorders in Canada.

Retrieved from: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/ pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.htm

 

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2018). World drug report. Retrived from:

https://www.unodc.org/wdr2018/prelaunch/WDR18_ Booklet_2_GLOBAL.pdf

 

Teachings Feelings Using Disney’s Pixar Film Inside Out

Homeschooling can be tough. Especially when children are missing their friends and are having a hard time understanding what is happening. Emotions can and will start to run at an all time high. So what can we do?

A strategy to assist children with expressing themselves is teaching them metacognition. Metacognition is a fancy word for awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings. Allowing children to access vocabulary to tell you what they are feeling and thinking can help avoid disruptions, melt downs, arguments, and fights in the home.

So where to start?

It is important to teach very simple, primary emotions first (i.e., anger), and from there, build on secondary emotions (i.e., frustration). Here is a perfect example of primary and secondary emotions:

If you have seen the Disney’s Pixar movie Inside Out, you’ll know there is a perfect ensemble of characters that represent the majority of primary emotions. If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend obtaining it as a resource for early years classrooms. Teaching children about emotions and metacognition at an earlier age results in higher self-regulation skills throughout the life span, which in turn equals less classroom disruptions, easier classroom management, a safe and welcoming space for children, and perhaps most importantly, a well-rounded, emotionally aware individual. The same benefits are applicable to the home setting.

Let’s introduce the Inside Out emotions:

As you can see, the chart lists primary emotions in bold, and then secondary emotions underneath. The main focus when beginning to teach emotions is to teach the primary emotions first. Once your child displays proficiency at identifying the primary emotions in themself, and then applies them to another, you can move on to secondary emotions. For now, we will focus on primary.

A good method for teaching these emotions is introducing the characters via video. Thankfully, YouTube has done a wonderful compilation of each character or “emotion.”

Let’s meet Anger:

Meet Sadness:

Meet Disgust:

Meet Fear:

And finally, meet Joy:

 

After a thorough explanation and run through of these emotions, ask your child to do a simple exercise. At the top of it, write the sentence, “I feel joy when….” and have your child draw or write down what they think. In addition, ask them to show you the emotion with their face. Here is a great print out if your child is able to write well and brainstorm:

After getting acquainted with these emotions, have your child identify how they are feeling each day. You can do this by printing out the chart below and having your child point to or circle an emotion. It is okay if they choose more than one! The important thing is to ask why they are feeling that particular emotion.

It is important to remember to validate your child’s response when they share their feelings with you. As adults, we know that it can be scary to be vulnerable when sharing difficult emotions. Be sure to say things such as, “I hear you,” “I understand,” and, “It’s okay to be sad.” You can also use sympathetic and empathetic statements like, “It must be difficult to feel that way,” “I feel that way too when.” You can also use this as a platform for teaching your child ways to make themselves feel better. Ask them, “What can you do to feel better?” For instance, if a child identifies that they are feeling fearful, you can help them brainstorm a list of what makes them not feel afraid. This could be things like a warm hug, reassurance from a parent, or checking in with a friend. In this way, you also teach your child coping skills so that they can begin to regulate their own emotions.

Inside Out teaches us that every emotion, no matter how uncomfortable, is important to us. All of our emotions are relevant, including sadness. On days when your child is experiencing difficult emotions, let them know that these emotions are IMPORTANT, but that they are only TEMPORARY!

 

Helping Students With Special Needs During COVID19

Many of our learners are having to adapt to education in the home setting for the first time. But what about atypical learners? Let’s not forget about them! Check out the following pointers for adjusting the home education setting for those with special needs.

COVID19 & Anxiety

These are unprecedented times. A lot of us are isolated, have not been able to see family, and are struggling with job loss. Some of us are trying to work from home while raising children and trying to homeschool for the first time our lives. Some of us are children or teenagers trying to adjust to not seeing friends and being homeschooled for the first time in our lives. It’s a lot and it’s causing anxiety. But what exactly is anxiety? What does it look like? What are the different kinds? Where can I get help?

Click the image below to open up the full information sheet!