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Category Archives: wellbeing

Easy Back to School Tips

Back to school scene with desk, apple, blackboard and books. Typical school picture.

Back to school, with a new term ahead.

The back to school routine can be a little stressful for some children. Change is often positive, but it is a journey into the unknown. Anxiety reduces in all of us when new things or places become familiar, so the feeling of butterflies in the tummy at the beginning of term is a good example of being confronted with change.

Children are starting new classes with a little-known teacher, new desks, different lockers, etc. The map they had in their head no longer works. They need a little bit of time to create a new mental map of how things work.

It’s trickier when it’s a new school and it is all a little different, but the basics of reducing the anxiety remain the same. These easy tips for ‘back to school’ time will help kick-start a great new term.

Eight Back to School Tips for Parents

  1. Talk to your children about the new term. What are their hopes? How do they see the term ahead? Their concerns will also pop out at this time. Talk about the funny things you remember about first days at school and how you coped. Be positive – Being positive is contagious.
  2. If it is a new school – do a few practice runs so that the journey and lay out of the building is familiar. This might be on foot, on the bus or the train.
  3. Have a few earlier nights during the run up to the new term. It won’t be quite so hard to get them up this way.
  4. Make sure the uniform and all kit is ready, involve the children in the school preparation so they feel in control.
  5. On the afternoon of the first day of term do something they enjoy however simple. This will continue the feeling of summer fun for a while and ease in the transition back to school.
  6. Ask them about their day – what went well and perhaps in cases when it didn’t go so well, what could your child do to make it feel better tomorrow?
  7. Be prepared that your child may be a little grumpier or quieter than normal. This is expected as she or he comes to adjusts to the new routine.
  8. On the first day back, don’t forget a special breakfast and take some photos (younger children love this yearly ritual.)

Going back to school produces very mild anxiety for most children. However, new term anxiety will reduce by talking things through and getting things ready in good time before school starts.

More information about managing the return to school when your child has special needs or autism is available on this site.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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Rare Disease and Not Being Heard by Your GP

Facing ignorant GP described using Ignorance sign on white wall

Are you struggling to explain your illness to your GP?

Living with a rare illness is a struggle, but dealing with an ignorant GP increases that struggle.

Those feelings of not being listened to increase the isolation, ramp up the stress and contribute to disease progression.

I do not use the term ‘ignorant’ as an insult, rather I chose it to reflect the true meaning of the word. Ignorant means ‘destitute of knowledge’: in this case, a GP who doesn’t know what it means to live with your rare illness day in, day out, and doesn’t know how debilitating its symptoms can be.

Rare Diseases and GP Treatment

A GP’s case load normally consists of the everyday ailments of living, plus a few rarer ones.  GPs are not trained to know about the rare diseases that patients present with, and this is where the problems can start.

Trying to inform your GP about your rare disease and the tests you currently need is often akin to tip-toeing through a volcanic minefield. Why is this? It’s rather simple. The majority of GPs have been conditioned to believe they know most things about our health. Repeated consultations with grateful patients reinforce this belief.

GP’s can occasionally become omnipotent. Faced with a patient who knows more than them about a certain condition (as we rarities must do in order to survive) can be threatening to their self-perception. They do not like to feel small, and may immediately and unconsciously deflect or project on to us.

When this happens, the patient comes away feeling a hypochondriac, or a time-waster. The patient shuffles away feeling awful and the normal power inequality is restored. What has just happened is rarely questioned, except perhaps in a therapist’s room.

How to Assert Yourself With Your GP

It can be very helpful to take a second when you feel talked down to and patronised. This is your moment to regroup and have another go. Remember these three simple steps – you could even write them down and read them before your consultation.

1. Hold your ground.

2. Repeat your requests slowly and clearly, in a non-defensive tone.

3. Remain measured and stay in adult mode.

Your GP will feel less threatened and reduce the superior tone. He or she will have no choice but to operate in ‘adult mode’ as well. This normally produces a win-win situation. You, I and our families lose when we walk away feeling stupid.

It is also critically important to research as much as you are able to, and make sure your information is correct, to help yourself. Fortunately, there are many great blogs available online, where people with a rare illness have described the same symptoms and GP frustrations as you. Try typing the name of your illness, plus the word ‘blog’, into a search engine: for example, ‘chronic fatigue syndrome + blog’.

Lastly, I recommend getting a book on assertion if it is hard for you to stay in control in difficult situations; alternatively, you can find some great internet resources on how to be more assertive in general.

Written by a guest blogger for Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk).

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Walking Towards a Better Mood – New Research

Walking in front of a brick wall that says 'good' in a mural - suggesting walking is good for you

Walking towards a better mood.

It’s official: walking off a negative mood, and seeing quick results no matter what your speed, is possible.

A team of researchers at Iowa State University have confirmed that walking can blast away a negative mood. Better still, it does not need to be a fast aerobic stroll. Astonishingly, a 12-minute walk at speeds of just 3mph will raise a bad mood.

A study involving 400 undergraduates at Iowa State University and published in the Journal Of New Emotion has confirmed this amazing fact.

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that the walk location was unimportant. Forget the thought of the beautiful Sussex downs in autumn hues.  Participants who merely walked around an urban, drab and featureless university concourse (not to shame those at Iowa – many campuses aren’t easy on the eye) were just as likely to report an improvement in mood as those who had walked in beautiful surroundings.

Even students who walked on a treadmill for 12 minutes reported an increased mood. In contrast, those who sat at the end of the treadmill waiting for their friends felt worse than when they entered the gym.

Walking Off a Bad Mood: Why You Should Try It

Jeffrey Miller, study author and assistant professor at Saint Xavier University, said: “There seems to be something about that brisk, purposeful walk that is really good for you.”

The study increases the previously held view that even a short walk can be a valuable counter-measure in a difficult situation. So, what are you waiting for? You could take some of the heat out of that imminent meeting with the boss. It is certainly worth a try.

These findings also add weight to the already well-known physical benefits of walking.  Previous research has concluded that regular walking can slow dementia progression, prevent osteoarthritis, lower overall cancer risk and help in weight and blood pressure maintenance.

Try walking the next time you feel stress or worry clouding your thoughts: no matter the location, the walk itself could make a tangible difference to your mood.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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Chronic illness has secrets

Chronic illness has secrets

Chronic illness has secrets

Chronic illness has secrets

Chronic illness has secrets.  These secrets often don’t get aired by the daylight. Most people with a chronic illness or rare disease struggle with daily life. Those struggles are usually hidden from the world.  Popular psychology says that a positive attitude helps matters. It is true, being optimistic does help many things.  Let us be honest though. The British bull dog spirit often falls way short of helping those with chronic illness cope their new imposed reality.  At times the maxim can be simply patronising.

The secrets of chronic or rare disease

1. People with chronic illness are always trying to adjust to uncertainty about or change in their physical state. The sword of Damocles that hangs with an unknown prognosis causes anxiety. Individuals are often unable to talk about these fears. They are scared of being labelled moaners or  hypochondriacs.

2. Sufferers of chronic illness feel very alone.  This is also true in rare disease. The medical profession frequently does not understand their condition because it is so rare. The lack of knowledge by professionals about a rare disease usually results in the person researching all they can about their illness.  This is not a fixation but an attempt to maintain some control, a control that may even save their life. An awareness that there is a likelihood that you will have to advocate for yourself when vulnerable during a crisis in order to get correct treatment is scary.

3. People with chronic illness often try to micro manage life.  These real fears about a health emergency can make the person stop doing normal things.  This attempt to reduce the possibility of crisis can lead to further shrinking of life and a growing feeling of personal isolation.

4. Sufferers know that there is absolutely no certainty that the task or activity they did easily today will be able to be repeated tomorrow. The body is in charge and it can be mean abuser of the spirit.

5. People with chronic illness often feel angry, guilty or sad. This is because their hopeful plans made weeks in advance may need to be cancelled at the last moment because of a surge in symptoms. This weakens the individual’s support network further as ‘friends’ often don’t get it. Unwell people begin to be seen as unreliable rather than ill.

6. They may not get the support they need because they look  good on the outside when there is an invisible but major inferno going on inside.

If you are battling a chronic illness or rare disease.  It’s a pretty smart idea to give yourself a gentle pat on the back. Remember you are not alone, that you are a fighter.  Lastly, know that there are many others there in solidarity with you.

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Terror Attacks – Helping Kids Cope

Worried about terror attacks and the effects on children's mental health - upset child in profile

Is your child worried and upset by the recent terror attacks?

It is every parent’s nightmare: despite your best attempts, somehow your 6-year-old daughter has learnt of recent terror attacks.

She is scared and tearful. She asks you if she or you are going to be hurt by bad people. She tells you there are some ‘mean’ people who want to hurt others.

You don’t want her  innocence to be lost so soon; at the same time, you do want to be truthful. This is a scenario that every parent fears. It is also, sadly, one we are having to deal with more frequently. What is the best way of handling it? How does a parent explain terror attacks?

The most important thing, which most adults forget, is: a child who has a secure relationship with their parents already has a fortress of containment. This is the best possible starting point for tackling the unpalatable. You can reduce the fear of terror attacks through everyday parenting.

Parents view terror and trauma from an adult perspective, through adult eyes. We recognise the ugliness of horror and atrocity. Small children have not yet developed this depth of understanding, thank goodness. Their innocence is also a protection. Unless Children are directly affected by trauma, they don’t recognise it in quite the same way as adults, unless we teach them through our own fear. It’s really important that your children do not see your fear, your rage or your feelings of powerlessness in response to a terror attack. If a child knows their parents are scared, they will be too.

Explaining terror attacks to your children: Eight things to consider

  1. For children, a secure and containing relationship with a parent, or another attachment figure, is the most important safety feature that protects them from acute fear.
  2.  Explain that there are a few bad people in the world who want to cause harm but that there are many more good people. Fictional characters can often be used as good examples for younger children.  They are often powerful archetypes of strength and character that children can easily relate to.
  3. Tell them the good people in the world outnumber the bad. Point out all the people who your child knows who help others in different ways. These people could be friends, family members, teachers, doctors etc.…
  4. Tell them that they have no need to worry, as Mum, Dad, Nanny, or another attachment figure, will always keep them safe. Explain to them that it is the parents’ job to protect them from the few bad people in the world.
  5. Never provide more information than needed about a horrific situation. Use factual language, but avoid the over use of descriptive phrases and pronouns.  It’s correct to say ‘Some people were hurt’, rather than ‘Some people had their arms and legs smashed or crushed’.
  6. Always answer their questions truthfully, in a basic age-appropriate manner.
  7. Try to find a positive balancing thought to your child’s concern. In the case of the events in Nice, a balancing thought would be: a) The good and brave people who stepped in to help, or b) The doctors who are working round the clock to make the injured better.
  8. The focus here is to help the child balance their nebulous fear of bad people posing a threat in the world, with concrete evidence of the certainty of many better people in the world. This will help a child to form a mental representation of safely, particularly a young child, where the ability to engage in abstract thinking is not yet developed.

If your child does want to engage with the news, they may find it useful to look at the BBC’s Newsround, aimed at children aged 6-13; find an interview with Newsround’s deputy editor, Kirsti Adair, here.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard Chartered Consultant Psychologist. 

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