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10/07/15 - Dear Sarah: My Daughter Still Has Not Found Her Bashert

OHEL's  Supervisor of Intake Sarah Kahan LCSW adresses the questions of anxiety and dating

Dear Sarah, My daughter came back from seminary in Israel last year and even though she has been dating for over a year, she still has not found her bashert. As more time passes, her anxiety is increasing especially since she is constantly hearing about the “shidduch crisis”. What can I do to calm her down? In general, she is the type to get nervous about things in general and from time to time throughout her life, her anxiety would increase and subside. When she was little she was very attached to me and had difficulty adjusting to school. Before a test or if she had to speak in front of her class, she would feel anxious. After hurricane sandy she had trouble sleeping and concentrating on her school work. How can I help my daughter cope with life’s daily challenges?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Although we usually associate anxiety with a negative feeling, sometimes it can be positive, for example, if it helps you deal with a tense situation in school, study harder for an exam, handle a new situation, or stay focused on an important task. When anxiety becomes excessive, overbearing or long-lasting, it can get in the way of your everyday activities and may interfere with how you get along with others. Whether you have occasional anxiety or a diagnosable disorder, the good news is that you can take small and straightforward steps each day to manage and minimize your anxiety.

What are the signs of anxiety disorders? 

A wide variety of symptoms may be signs of an anxiety disorder, some of which may be physical symptoms:

∙Trembling, twitching, or shaking

∙Feeling a tightness in the throat or chest

∙Having difficulty catching your breath

∙Feeling like your heart is pounding

∙Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

∙Sweating or cold, clammy hands

∙Feeling jumpy

∙Having aches, tense muscles, or soreness

∙Feeling extremely tired

∙Having trouble falling asleep or getting a good night’s rest 

You might also have symptoms that impact your emotions, thoughts, or behavior, like:

∙Feeling restless

∙Feeling on edge or keyed up

∙Being angry or irritable

∙Worrying about everyday decisions for several days in a row

∙Fearing that something bad is going to happen

∙Feeling doomed

∙Becoming easily distracted

∙Having difficulty concentrating

∙Feeling like your mind goes blank

∙Finding it hard to do your work or normal activities.

Your reaction to the symptoms, in addition to the actual anxiety can disrupt your life. You may:

∙Frequently avoid certain places or things

∙Consistently drink or use drugs to numb your feelings

∙Consider harming yourself or others

∙Start working all the time to occupy your mind

∙Pull away from other people and become isolated

∙Have an explosive temper when things go wrong

∙Find it hard to express your opinion or be assertive

∙Focus on what isn’t going well or what could go wrong

∙Not give yourself enough credit when you do well or accomplish something.

What are the treatments for anxiety disorders?

There are a number of effective treatments for anxiety disorders that can help you cope with these symptoms and greatly improve your quality of life. Treatments for anxiety disorders can involve counseling, medication, or a combination of both.

Counseling can help you learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to move beyond your symptoms. Medications work in different ways to affect the chemicals in your brain that may be associated with anxiety disorders. In addition to getting treatment, you can adjust your lifestyle to help relieve anxiety symptoms. Try to work these into your daily routine:

∙Physical activity can improve your mood and help you sleep better. For instance, a brisk 30-60 minute walk releases endorphins that can lead to a reduction in anxiety. You can start today by taking a walk or jog, or you can create a list of physical activities that you enjoy, and put them on your schedule for the week. Yoga is a more relaxed type of exercise that could calm your anxiety.

∙Eat healthy meals regularly—Good nutrition helps your body and your mind

∙Sleep well—Enough quality sleep can help you feel better. If you are having trouble sleeping, engage in a relaxing activity before bedtime, such as taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or taking several deep breaths. If you’re like many people with anxiety whose brains start buzzing right before bed, jot down your worries earlier in the day for 10 to 15 minutes.

∙Get involved—volunteer, join a club, take up a hobby, or go to lunch with a close friend.

∙Practice relaxation techniques.  “Deep diaphragmatic breathing triggers our relaxation response, switching from our fight-or-flight response of the sympathetic nervous system, to the relaxed, balanced response of our parasympathetic nervous system,” according to Marla Deibler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, and executive director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia. She suggested the following exercise, which you can be repeated several times: Inhale slowly to a count of four starting at your belly and then moving into your chest. Gently hold your breath for four counts. Then slowly exhale to four counts.

∙Accept your anxiety. Pay attention to how the unpleasant sensations feel in your body without trying to make it go away. This will help you build up the tolerance and acceptance to those feelings you are trying to avoid.

∙Challenge an anxious thought. We all have moments where we unintentionally increase or maintain our own worry by thinking unhelpful thoughts. These thoughts are often unrealistic, inaccurate, or, to some extent, unreasonable. We have the ability to change these thoughts. The first step is to identify them. Consider how a specific thought affects your feelings and behaviors. Is the thought helpful or unhelpful? Unhelpful thoughts usually come in the form of “what ifs,” “all-or-nothing thinking,” or “catastrophizing.”

Here are some examples of thoughts you want to challenge: 

“What if I make a fool of myself?” “What if I fail this exam?” “What if this airplane crashes?” “What if I get bitten by that dog?” “What if I get stuck in the elevator”?

Ask yourself: 

“Is this worry realistic?” “Is this really likely to happen?” “If the worst possible outcome happens, what would be so bad about that?” “Could I handle that?” “Is this really true or does it just seem that way?” Then, reframe the thought to make it more accurate and realistic. For example: “Anxiety is just a feeling, like any other feeling.” and “This feels bad, but I can use techniques to cope with it” or “I have more control over my anxiety as I learn how to tolerate and accept it.”

Coping with anxiety can be a struggle, but give yourself the patience to practice the tools outlined above    and over time you will see improvement. Good luck with your daughter and may she find her zivug very soon!

Sarah Kahan, LCSW is the supervisor of Intake @ OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services. For more information about the wide variety of OHEL services please call 1(800)603-OHEL or email access@ohelfamily.org.

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