One of the most talked about subjects in our TS groups is stress and anxiety. There is a difference between the two – stress is the result of dealing with situations; anxiety results from stress. Certainly, reducing stress, and in turn anxiety, is a benefit not only to children and teens dealing with TS, but parents and other adults as well.
With the added stress created by the pandemic and uncertainty regarding the upcoming school year, we want to focus on ways to relieve stress and manage anxiety.
We realize that not all of the techniques or suggestions works for everyone. But we are hoping that everyone can find some help by exploring the resources we’ve been able to provide.
Back in January, NJCTS hosted the webinar “Introduction to Mindfulness for Stress Reduction”, presented by Anton Shcherbakov, Psy.D, BCBA. Research studies show that regular mindfulness practice can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and improve overall well-being.
Dr Shcherbakov defines mindfulness is relatively simple. It is just paying attention: On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. The goal of mindfulness is meditation. “Why mindfulness? Well, there is this really interesting study that came out and found that the average American spends about 47% of their waking time thinking about things other than what they’re doing…. even if we’re thinking about neutral topics, mind wandering tends to lead to reduced happiness as well. ”
Assistive Technology to Help with Anxiety
On August 12th, NJCTS will host “Assistive Technology to Help with Anxiety”, a webinar presented by Matt Dennion. This webinar will discuss apps that students can use in dealing with anxiety in school other settings. The presentation will highlight mobile technology that can help create schedules with detailed directions, support reading and writing for students with dyslexia and dysgraphia, assist with writing research papers, and programs that can support independent functioning in a community setting.
“In These Uncertain Times”: Returning to School in an Age of Anxiety
On August 26, NJCTS will host “In These Uncertain Times”: Returning to School in an Age of Anxiety, presented by W. Eric Deibler, M.S Ed., Psy.D. This webinar will discuss what school will be like for our children upon their intended return to the classroom after a five-month absence.
Looking ahead to December, NJCTS will host “Anxiety Management” with Christopher Lynch, Psy.D.
Read some examples of stress and anxiety coping techniques for those with Tourette’s from our own group:
From Ken Shyminsky, a former vice president of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada
“In my case, I discovered at an early age that running and weight training helped my get rid of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome energy. As a result, I was more calm. When I knew I was approaching a stressful time (university exams or giving a presentation), I would ensure I proactively went for a run to reduce my stress levels, in anticipation of the stress that I was about to experience. In effect, I was increasing my capacity to take on more stress than the regular daily amount.
I often share this analogy:
I think of myself as a clear glass bottle. As stressful events occur, the bottle fills. Highly stressful situations and events cause it to fill quickly. Daily work and family stress fill it more slowly, over days and weeks. Left unchecked the bottle will keep filling and eventually overflow.
By participating in stress-reducing activities, I empty the bottle of some of the accumulated stress and I create more empty space in my bottle (body). When I know I am heading into a stressful time or event, I make sure to first reduce my internal stress so I have more room for adding stress to the bottle, so it doesn’t overflow. I can predict stressful triggers and my responses and also prepare myself to manage the pressures that follow.”
This is a marathon, people, not a sprint. How I wish I had someone tell me that 6 years ago. But now I’m learning. Here are 10 things that have worked for me in terms of overcoming the stress and day-to-day grind of having a child with Tourette Syndrome and other disorders:
Find a support group (This blog, a private group I have)
Be open with friends (I have some awesome folk in my life)
Pray (It really works)
Find a prayer support group
Set goals for yourself
Be honest – some days just suck. There’s no point in pretending otherwise. Just know you can always start over.
Yes, really, you START OVER. Every second that passes is a new opportunity to start fresh.
Focus on the kid and his/her gifts, not just the tics.
Work on accepting the tics you can’t change, changing the tics you can, and having the wisdom to know the difference.