Mental health during lockdown

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I woke up this morning with my calendar telling me that I don’t have any clients for the day. As for most of us, this is a strange experience as we are so used to planning our day filled with all the duties we have to fulfill career wise, running out to do the shopping for the family, helping kids with homework, assignments, preparing for tests and making lunches and dinners.

Suddenly, we have to stay indoors- isolated- keeping ourselves and kids occupied with work, chores and family time. We also have to deal with the daily threat of the Corona virus as the number of sick people are rising, and two reported deaths have already occurred. This contributes to so much anxiety for all of us. I would like to share a few suggestions with you, that might help you to get through this time.

Although I will not be going out or see clients at my office, I will be following a daily routine as it gives a sense of control and security. It also helps to reduce anxiety if you work with some purpose.

  • So after getting out of bed ( try to do so within 45 minutes to an hour after waking up), make your bed and take a shower or bath to set the tone for the day. Already two tasks that you have successfully completed! An excellent start which will set the tone for the day.
  • Tend to your hair and nails and keep on following your skincare regime. Put on some makeup such as lipstick or even just a lip balm.
  • Help your children to also follow a hygienic routine, and encourage all to wash hands regularly: 20 seconds with lots of foam from your soap.
  • For breakfast, avoid sugary cereals and rather eat a protein breakfast with good fats, to help you maintain steady blood sugar. 
  • As our movements are restricted, eat smaller portions. You can even eat from a smaller plate/side plate to help you manage healthy food intake. (This comes from a nutritionist, Taryn Coghlan, in Fairland).
  • Take in as much water as possible. It is advised that we drink a few sips of water every 15 minutes to avoid a dry mouth. I enjoy herbal teas without milk in between.
  • Be mindful of the amount of caffeine you consume during this time.
  • Take vitamins daily.
  • Avoid snacking, and if you have to, make sure there are some cut up veggies and a yogurt dip in the fridge. Carrot sticks, baby cucumber, rosa tomatoes, baby corn are some of my favourites.
  • This is a time where you can have a tea/coffee break as a family at given times- as you will have at work and school. Make sure this is a relaxed time of laughter and warmth.
  • As blood sugars drop between 14:00 and 16:00 hours, consider having a small ‘snack’ ready for the family. These can include cheese, boiled egg, a small piece of meat (or small meatballs- keep it to three or four), a piece of fruit, nuts, etc. Make sure that these are not a meal size. Just stabilize the blood sugar to avoid tears, tantrums or people becoming 'hangry'.
  • Spend quality time with your family- away from the TV. You don’t need hours together, but half an hour of undivided attention (not watching your cell phone for messages or taking calls), will mean a lot to everybody.
  • Make time to play together as a family: ball games, if you have space in your yard, watch your kids ride their bikes, and if you have your own pool, swim and play with your children. Play card/board games, and think of games that you used to play as a child and teach your children.
  • Manage your children’s screen time carefully. No more than half an hour at a time- then take a break. This can be a good time to train your children that there is more to life that screens.
  • When working from home, set your alarm to remind you to get out of the chair and stretch your legs. A good time to drink water and wash hands.
  • Plan daily activities for your children. Choose some fun school activities for them to participate in. Choose a topic, e.g. sea animals, and find interesting information and pictures to share with them. Allow them to make a drawing/ picture based on the information. This should be a creative activity of their choosing. Make sure colouring pencils and paints are available to encourage creativity. For a collage, print pictures of their choosing.
  • Now that our movements are restricted, explain to the family that housework is exercise and make it fun. You can call a family meeting to do so. Allow everyone to voice their opinions. The aim is to draw up a list of tasks that needs to be done. Let them choose some chores that they are prepared to help with, as their contribution to the family. Emphasize that families work together to make life easier for all. Keep it short and sweet.
  • Get moving. Put music on and do some dancing together. Consider finding a YouTube video that teaches some dance moves. Kids love Twerking and Hip Hop. Have great laughs together.
  • Read to your children. Let them tell the story back, or turn it into a game and ask some questions based on the game. See who can answer the fastest. Keep it organised with an object that the person who wants to answer, must grab- one person to answer- no shouting out. This helps not only with listening skills, expressive language, and story memory but also with impulse control.

In a time where much of our own control has been taken away, it is important to create your own control. Your children also need some control and a real sense of security. A good routine with family activities will allow for that.

Remember that I am available for Skype and Whatsapp consultations. Please feel free to continue making use of my services, even though it is not at my office. I am a telephone call away.

Please stay in your own home and don't leave your property without good reason- as stipulated by the President. Take very good care of yourself and your family. Good mental health to all of you.

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Journalling for stress management

Hi Everybody

In a time where adults and children alike are under extreme pressure to perform and achieve, it is important to find positive ways of managing and relieving stress. In my practice I teach my clients (young and older) certain techniques to reduce stress.

It is important to reduce stress as it can become a nasty invader if not managed well. True, stress is part of daily life, and we will never be totally without it. When stress levels spike too high, it often leads to frustration, acting out behaviour, anxiety, depression and physical illness such as headaches, stomach problems, skin rashes, etc. 

I explain to my clients that as long as they keep things bottled up, it goes round-and-round in their heads and it sometimes feels as if it’s just a matter of time before a big explosion will occur. Problems can also occupy the mind to such an extent that there is not much ‘space’ left for important things such as learning, remembering or just plain everyday functioning. 

Basic things such as a healthy diet with lots of veggies and fruit, daily vitamins to supplement dietary deficiencies, regular exercise and enough sleep, remain important aspects of managing stress well. It can be very helpful to externalise a problem, in other words, bring it to the open. Put it on the table so to speak. This will allow you to see a problem or decision for what it really is. It’s almost like making it more concrete and strangely enough, most of the time it is almost as if things becomes more manageable and something that can be dealt with. 

One way of ‘externalising’ issues is journalling. People often think that they need to be a fabulous writer, using lovely figures of speech, great and impressive words, with perfect spelling and beautiful handwriting. Well, that it is totally not true. Journalling is really for everybody and there is no right or wrong way of doing. It is individual and personal. The idea is to put feelings, events, behaviour, worries and ideas on paper instead of carrying it around with you. The only prerequisites are honesty and that the ideas and words are truly yours. 

Journalling helps to put things in perspective; such as changes you are going through or when making a decision- helping to see which solution will be the most appropriate. It will be an eye opener to go back and read your journal to identify patterns of behaviour. Sometimes it is just a place where you can ’dump’ the events of the day so that it does not bottle up and manifest in inappropriate acting out behaviour, aggression, frustration or even depression. In a way, a journal can become a means of support and a reminder of what the person has learnt about herself. 

It is amazing to see how much you can learn about yourself by journalling. My one client was very surprised to notice over a period of time, that she made the same mistake over and over. She was unaware of that and when she went back to read some of the older entries, it was a revelation for her. She was then ready for the much needed changes she was resisting previously. 
For children and adolescents, it brings a sense of control; that they are able to say what they want to say without being judged. It is important that parents respect the boundaries and allow the child confidentiality without snooping around and secretly reading their child’s diary. Everybody have a right to privacy- even children and adolescents!

I encourage my clients to also write about gratitude and at least one positive idea or compliment to themselves every day. This helps to keep us grounded and balanced. I have recently shopped around for a journal for a young client. I was amazed at the variety of books available for journalling. It does not need to be very fancy. For this specific client I bought an inexpensive hard covered book with funky colours. I spruced it up with ribbon and voila, a lovely book that she can use for journalling. There are also amazing creative projects on the internet where you can learn to make your own journal- even with lock and key! This can become a project for mom and/or dad to help the kids to all personalise a journal and start writing (without interfering with each other remember!). How about starting to manage your stress through journalling right away?!

For those of you who still want to know more or need some prompts to start, here are some links- there a many more!

  1. 119 Journal Prompts for Your Journal Jar: http://daringtolivefully.com/journal-prompts
  2. 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/09/27/30-journaling-prompts-for-self-reflection-and-self-discovery/
  3. These Journal Writing Prompts Will Encourage Kids to Develop Their Composition Skills: http://www.dailyteachingtools.com/journal-writing-prompts.html 
  4. Recommended Books related to Journal Writing: http://www.lifejournal.com/journal-writing-books/

Don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!

Warm regards



Comments - Kommentaar

I would love some comments and questions from you. Feel free to ask questions. Can't wait to hear from you!

Voel asseblief vry om 'n opmerking te maak of vrae te vra. Dit sal lekker wees om van jou te hoor!

Sarie Artikel - As skool 'n kwessie raak

In die Februarie 2015 uitgawe van Sarie, het die artikel, "As skool 'n kwessie raak" deur Delia Du Toit verskyn. Delia het my onder andere genader vir inligting vir haar artikel en die volgende in haar artikel gebruik:

Vraag: My kind is angstig en wil nie skool toe gaan nie. Wat kan ek doen om haar te motiveer om skool te geniet?

"Geen kind is elke dag lus vir skool nie, maar as dit gereeld gebeur, is daar rede tot kommer, se Christelle du Plessis, 'n opvoedkundige sielkundige van Johannesburg. As angstigheid die oorsaak is, kom dit dikwels by 5 - 6 jariges en 10 - 11 jariges voor, of in 'n oorgangsfase soos die skuif van laer- na hoerskool. Kyk uit vir skeidingsangs (jou kind klou aan jou), sosiale onttrekking, vloermoere en psigosomatiese simptome soos maagpyn, hoofpyn, en naarheid wat verdwyn as die kind tuis mag bly.

Gesels met jou dogter om uit te vind wat pla. Daar kan verskeie oorsake van laegraad angs wees soos leerprobleme, boelies, ongeorganiseerdheid, veranderinge tuis en sosiale probleme, volgens Christelle. 'n Kind kan sukkel om te verduidelik hoe angs voel. Vra dus konkrete en leidende vrae soos "Is jy bang om skool toe te gaan?", of "Is daar maatjies by die skool wat naar is met ander kinders by die skool?"

As die probleme nie aandag kry nie, kan dit lei tot 'n angsversteuring. Sommige kinders is ook geneties meer angstig. Daar sal simptome soos sweterige handjies, bednatmaak, onttrekking, paniekerigheid, huilerigheid, benoudheid in die bors, lighoofdigheid, 'n knop in die keel, slaapprobleme, irritasie en depressie of woede voorkom. 'n Sielkundige se hulp is dan beslis nodig".

 Vraag: My kind het altyd goed (genoeg) gedoen, maar sy punte gaan skielik agteruit. Moet ek bekommerd wees?

"Dit is altyd 'n bron van kommer wanneer 'n kind se punte skielik agteruitgaan, maar die redes kan skolasties of meer onheilspellend wees.

As jou seun agter is met werk, moet nooit die werk vir hom doen nie. Skep slegs die ruimte tyd en leiding sodat jou kind dit self kan doen en help hom met studiemetodes as hy lui is om te leer, se Christelle.

Dit kan ook gebeur dat hy gedemotiveerd raak as jy onrealistiese eise aan hom stel, se Christelle. Vra vir hom of hy sy bes gedoen het, en as hy het, moet jy oordra dat dit goed genoeg is- selfs al kry hy 40%. Vind die aktiwiteite waarin hy uitblink sodat hy sukses kan beleef en 'n gesonde selfbeeld kan bou.

'n Toekomsvisie help ook veral ouer kinders om gemotiveerd te bly, en 'n beroepsassessering kan dus van waarde wees. Tieners raak ook meer sosiaal en moet geleer word hoe om hul tydsbesteding te balanseer, se Christelle.

Daar kan ook emosionele oorsake by die skool wees, se Christelle. Kyk uit vir stukkende klere of besittings, blou kolle, tranerigheid, nagmerries, selfbeeld probleme of eetlus veranderinge. Dit alles kan op boelies en ander sosiale en emosionele probleme dui.

Jou kind sal dalk niks wil se nie, vra dus dinge soos: 'Met wie speel jy by die skool en wat speel julle?', of 'Is daar kinders by die skool wat geboelie word?' Laat hom verstaan dat jy daar is om te luister en te help indien nodig".

Dealing with Bullies

I was fortunate enough to have made a contribution in an article in True Love magazine (January 2015). In the article, "Get them ready to succeed", Ziphezinhle Msimango incorporated some of my comments in her article:

Dealing with Bullies

"The most important way to bully-proof your child is to build up her self-esteem. Educational Psychologist Christelle du Plessis from the Baby and Child Wellness Centre says, "This will not only assist your child in dealing with bullies, but will prevent her from becoming one. If your child has a healthy self-esteem, she will carry herself with confidence, which will deter bullies as they pick on younger and weaker kids. It is very helpful to play games with your child where you can act out a scenario in which you are being bullied. By playing it out and discussing it, your child will become empowered to deal with situations that will otherwise be unfamiliar to her," she adds. 

Other ways to to build self-esteem include encouraging your little one to take part in group sports like soccer or tennis and leisure activities like joining a local club. This will benefit her physically, emotionally and mentally. 

If playing soccer is not for your child, consider something like Monkeynastix or take your little introvert for speech and drama lessons. For the music lover, take her for some dancing lessons- modern dancing or hip-hop lessons will help develop her self-esteem. 

Sometimes children, especially older ones, may not be willingly share that they are being bullied at school. It is important that you are able to spot signs early. If your child comes home with inexplicable bruises and scratches, talks about hating school or even worse, refuses to go to school, there may be a bullying situation that you need to investigate. Talk to your child to see if she can give you information or speak to her teacher about your concerns".