School avoidance, sometimes called school refusal or school phobia, is a growing concern affecting up to 25% of students. School avoidance is stressful for parents and children alike, and the situation is often difficult to navigate both at home and at school.
Children avoiding school may exhibit outright refusal, may complain of vague physical symptoms, or may come up with very creative reasons for not attending school. Most commonly, children with complain of unexplainable physical symptoms – things like headaches, upset stomach, nausea, and dizziness. These symptoms are typically only present on school days, with weekends being complaint-free. If a child experiencing school avoidance attends school, he may frequently visit the school nurse or experience separation anxiety from parents while at school.
Children typically avoid school for reasons they aren’t capable of verbalizing or willing to share with parents. It is important to consider that students who avoid school may be experiencing anxiety or trying to avoid negative experiences at school. Fear of failure, perceived “meanness” of teachers/school staff/other students, issues with peers, bullying, and fear of using a public restroom are all possible contributors to school avoidance.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
Have an open dialogue with your child about why he doesn’t want to attend school. Consider all possibilities and offer your child sympathy and support. Brainstorm solutions with your child for any issues identified and rehearse responses for any difficult situations your child anticipates.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings, but insist on her immediate return to school. The longer your child stays home, the more difficult her eventual return to school will be. Explain to your child that attending school is required by the law. Understand that your child will likely become more insistent on staying home several days, but you must make a commitment to remain firm in your expectation for school attendance.
Discuss your child’s reasons for school avoidance with teachers/school staff. Enlist their support in your child’s return to school. If bullying or issues with teachers have been identified as reasons for school avoidance, discuss these issues with school staff immediately and discuss options for quick resolution. Discuss a gradual return - starting with several hours daily and building to a full school day - if needed.
Discuss the positive aspects of school with your child. Identify friends that your child can lean on when feeling anxious or sad. If your child is having difficulty making friends, enlist the help of teachers or the school guidance counselor to encourage engagement with others students – buddy lunches or getting to spend a recess inside with one or two other students may help your child build friendships.
Encourage your child to engage in hobbies and interests. Fun will help your child relax and hobbies are great distractions that will help your child build self-confidence.
If your child is not currently in therapy, enlist the help of a counselor to help your child verbalize feelings and build healthy coping skills. Encouraging your child to understand and protect their own mental health is a gift that will last a lifetime.
The first year I moved from a place with warm, sunny winter to one with winters that are cold and gray was far from easy. But the antidote was I went for a walk every day. No matter what — no matter how cold, no matter how raw, no matter how snowy — I walked. A passionate walker, hiker, jogger, and gardener, the solution felt natural. I always go outside, for the joy of it on the bright days as well as on days that are either literally or figuratively, dark.
Folk wisdom has long held that natural beauty, fresh air, and sunshine can lift moods of depression and anxiety. Now studies show how well green therapy works as a natural solution for difficult moods.
Time outdoors gets you moving, which in itself promotes a sense of well-being. But you don’t have to experience a runner’s high to enjoy the mood-elevating benefits of the outdoors. That spike in endorphins that comes from vigorous aerobic effort is also possible by walking in the park. Studies show regular brisk walking can effectively combat anxiety and depression. And a green walk is more effective than walking indoors.
Taking a walk in your own backyard is also effective. When’s the last time you listened to the birds chirp, or the trees rustle? Do you even know what kind of trees are planted in your yard? Take an afternoon to identify them. Better yet, plant a few new ones.
As little as 5 minutes in a natural setting can improve self-esteem, mood, and motivation. It allows you to connect with nature and its beauty, and concentrate on small achievable goals. In Japan, they call this "forest bathing," or "shinrin-yoku." It's a decades-old practice of connecting with nature through our senses. Some doctors are now prescribing it to their patients to reduce stress and blood pressure. You don't have to hike, jog, or work up a sweat to appreciate the sounds, smells, and sights of the forest.
Taking a walk in the woods during the day can also help with seasonal affective disorder. Doctors say exposure to bright light helps reduce depression and anxiety. Mother nature isn't a replacement for mental health therapy, but rather a supplement.
Professionals are now integrating green therapy into their workday schedules.
This involves physical activities along with psychological exercises, usually carried out in groups. Activities such as rafting, rock climbing, and paintball games get the adrenaline flowing.
Conducted by a professional, this focuses on the interaction between individuals and animals like horses and dogs. This therapy can be a one-to-one activity or done in a group.
Green Exercise Therapy
This involves physical activities or exercises in green spaces, such as walking, running, and cycling. It's usually led by a trained instructor.
There's something about digging in the dirt that lifts up people struggling with mental and emotional issues. It can take several forms:
Social and therapeutic horticulture
Gardening or growing food in community gardens or nurseries, with the help of qualified tutors.
This is popular in many care centers for people with disabilities. It focuses on growing farm crops and looking after farm animals. Environmental conservation combines with nature classes under the direction of a group leader.
If you opt for therapeutic gardening, don’t neglect your own backyard, which you can access anytime without the help of a leader. All the great things about the garden can come into play to combat anxiety and depression: the sight, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors; the joy of creating something beautiful and life-sustaining for yourself and your family; and the benefits of physical exertion.
Gardening also expresses and reinforces faith and hope for the future. You are, after all, planting something today that will flourish tomorrow. Green therapy in or out of the garden can also provide an additional benefit. It can yield activities, habits, and even objects that can give you joy for years after the dark days subside.
Olivia Macdonald loves the outdoors, especially when she’s in motion in it — whether hiking trails, running 5Ks, skiing or cycling on a mountain bike or road bike.
[image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/OBbliBNuJlk]
Whether you’re trying to save money or you just don’t want to venture out in the cold this winter, there are plenty of ways you can still exercise in the comfort of your home – and lots of benefits in doing so. You don’t need any big, bulky workout equipment taking up space in your living room either – you just need the motivation to get started. Now, let’s burn some calories!
Combine these exercises below for a simple workout routine at home:
Cross Jacks – Stand in the same position you would for jumping jacks. Jump and cross your legs in front of one another as you cross your arms above your head. Then, spread your feet and arms apart. Just like you would with a jumping jack. Repeat, crossing the opposite arms and legs. You can also do this exercise with your arms in front of you.
High Knees – Stand with your feet apart. Lift one knee up toward your chest and pump the opposite arm while making a fist. Land lightly on the balls of your feet. Alternate your knees and elbows at a quick pace.
Stair Sprints – Using the stairs in your home, sprint up them, one at a time. Slowly walk down for a cool down. Then, sprint up them again. This is a real calorie burner!
Burpee – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squat, placing your hands on the ground in front of you. Jump your feet back, landing on the balls of your feet. Form a straight line with your body, similar to a plank position, parallel to the ground. Then, jump your feet back to where your hands are and stand up, raising your arms above your head. Once you start getting used to this warm-up, you can add a push-up when you are in the plank position.
Mountain Climbers – Kneel on the floor and place your hands out in front of you shoulder-width apart. Lean forward with your body extended. Then, bring your right thigh to your chest while extending your left leg back with toes pointing down. Alternate and bring your left thigh to your chest while extending your right leg back in the same position.
For the workout routine above, exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute and rest for 10 seconds before going onto the next step. After all of the exercises are complete, rest for one minute and then start it again. Increase the number of times the routine is done as you progress in your training.
About the Author:
Rae is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing for Taos Footwear.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a term used to describe depressive episodes that follow seasonal patterns, most commonly beginning in the late fall and early winter months, with resolution in the spring and summer months. Symptoms may include feeling hopeless or worthless, losing interest in activities that are normally pleasurable, decreased energy, changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep patterns, and/or thoughts of suicide or death.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), some theories behind the phenomenon of seasonal depression include dysregulation of serotonin (an important brain chemical involving mood), overproduction of melatonin, and underproduction of Vitamin D. Possible treatments for seasonal depression include antidepressants, Vitamin D supplementation, psychotherapy, and bright light therapy.
Artificial bright light therapy has been proven effective in numerous randomized clinical trials and may be a good option if medications are not tolerable or effective. Most studies show that about 60% of patients respond to this type of therapy. Positive effects of bright light therapy are obtained if utilized in the early morning hours for a duration of 30 minutes. In order to show clinically significant improvement in symptoms, the light must reach an intensity of 10,000 lux and include fluorescent bulbs emitting white light specifically. Lower intensity light may be helpful but requires a longer duration of exposure. Typically, UV light is filtered out from most light boxes, reducing potential risks to the eyes and skin. Ideally, the light box should be about 16 to 31 inches away from the individual and be projected slightly downwards.
If symptoms do not improve within 2 to 4 weeks, adding afternoon/evening bright light therapy for an additional 30 minutes may be helpful. Light therapy is generally safe and there are no absolute medical contraindications. There is little to no evidence that bright light therapy causes any retinal damage in humans, according to www.uptodate.com. The most common side effects include eye strain and headaches. It should be noted that patients with bipolar major depression may be at increased risk for manic episodes with the initiation of bright light therapy due to its stimulating properties.
In review, bright light therapy appears to be an excellent option for the treatment of seasonal depression if administered correctly - that is, with the correct intensity of light and for an adequate amount of time. Given its safe profile with minimal side effects, this provides a therapeutic opportunity to improve mood without the common side effects associated with most antidepressant medications.
The upcoming holidays can bring about a variety of emotions. For some, the holidays are a time for reflection, friends, family, and festivities. For others, the holidays are a time of stress and anxiety. With increased stress, food can sometimes become an easy method for coping. If you tend to turn to food for comfort and emotional support, there are some strategies that could help you deal with holiday stress without overeating.
By practicing a few simple strategies, it is possible to get through the holidays without turning to food for comfort. Pay attention to your body. Eat when you are hungry. Be mindful and slow down while eating. Stop eating when you feel full. Drink water. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise.
Have fun this holiday season. But if your eating gets the best of you, remember that Providers for Healthy Living offers nutritional counseling by our licensed dietician, Kelsey Russell, RDN, and cognitive behavioral therapy and obesity medications by our obesity medicine specialist, Matthew Lowe, DO. We are here to help you regain control of your eating and help you meet your nutrition and weight goals, if you need us. Call us at 614-664-3595 or register as a new patient on our website if you are interested in receiving assistance.
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