Monday, October 15, 2012

A bit of Psychology: {Part II}


So it seems that I have two little girls on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the trauma that they have experienced in their pasts. In Part I, I talked a lot about Lilah and her diagnosis of an Anxiety Disorder and how this shows itself in her everyday life. But we also have Zoe, who shows her insecurities through Hyperactivity. Zoe has been much easier to deal with. When she feels something, good or bad, she lets it out. She will run around yelling and laughing with pure joy or she will lay down on the ground and kick, scream and yell out exactly what the problem is. With Zoe, the reactions are short and she moves on quickly.

We are doing the exact same exercises with both girls, as our psychologist told me that it should work for both of them.


This chart shows that a child should be in a relaxed state most of the time. On one end we have a child with anxiety and on the other end we have a physically aggressive child with ADHD like symptoms...

So our goal right now is to get both girls into a relaxed state throughout the day. When they start to go one way or the other, the exercises we are using should be something that they can turn to when they recognize their anxiety (or hyperactivity) rising... and these exercises are skills that they can use throughout life. We attempt to do some of these a couple of times a day, but always right before bed.

One of our biggest struggles has been bedtime. The girls get very riled up. They will not settle. It doesn't matter how many times you go in and talk to them, they continue with the same disobedience over and over and over. Since we started our new routine, this has changed dramatically. By the time we are done, they are calmer and more settled and willing to just go to sleep.

The thing with anxiety is that it is carried physically. Often causing nightmares, headaches, stomach aches, back aches... a child should never have creases in their forehead, knots along their spine or jaw tension (grinding of teeth). Their facial skin should be soft, pink and somewhat glossy. Their lips should be moist, not pale and dry. Their belly should be soft. Their shoulders should be even.

When a child is always anxious, their pain tolerance is very high because they are always in some level of pain and they are just used to it. Lilah is definitely this way... we have found through her surgeries, that she is one tough girl, rarely asking for any pain medication.

Before we begin our nightly routine, the girls have a bath or a dip in the hot tub.


1. Yoga

A lot of people may not agree with the idea of Yoga, but really, these are just the stretching exercises we use to relieve tension in the back, legs and shoulders and to get into a relaxed state both mentally and physically.


A couple of times a day, we pull out our Yoga mats and do the exact same routine, to the exact same music. We do positions like Happy Cat, Angry Cat, Downward Dog, Childs Pose, etc. Lilah thrives on this and cooperates very well. If we are busy, she will ask to do Yoga. I see a huge difference in Lilah and how this brings her into a very relaxed state, very quickly. With Zoe, this is always difficult. It is hard for her to lay still for so long, to be relaxed and calm. It takes constant reminders for her to stay in her positions, to not fidget, to not fix her mat, to close her eyes, to focus.


One of the physical signs of anxiety is lack of balance. Lilah cannot balance well during our exercises. On the other hand, Zoe, if she concentrates, can. And yet, in the everyday activities, Lilah doesn't trip and fall, but Zoe is constantly tripping and falling. This shows us that when Zoe is in a relaxed state, she can achieve this goal, but in her every day hyperactivity, she cannot. This also shows that when Lilah is put on the spot to do such a position, her anxiety rises.


The last minute of the song that we use, we lay on our mats, close our eyes, relax our bodies and focus on the music (corpse pose). This is where I can see them finally calm themselves. I often have to remind them to focus on the music, to focus on the cellos (I think they are cellos!). Instead of focussing on ourselves (which Yoga is often about) we focus on Jesus through the song that we have chosen. To me Yoga is a mental state and can only be what you chose it to be.

There is no talking. There is no laughing and goofing around. There is no jumping up and running around afterwards. I try to keep them calm and quiet all the way through these next steps.


2. The Ball

After we complete our yoga, Lilah will roll gently and slowly on her stomach on the exercise ball, head down. This releases tension in her belly. It is a way to give herself a little massage. Something that she can learn to use in the future, when she starts to recognize tension and pain.


She will then sit on the ball and roll slightly, remaining calm. While she is doing this, Zoe and I are deep breathing together. Then we switch. I also use this ball during the day, especially for Zoe, when she gets out of control, as a way of calming her down for a few minutes.

3. The Feather

We do six deep breathes with a feather placed in front of the nose. In through the nose, out through the mouth. The feather gives them something to focus on and the movement of the feather shows how long and deep their breaths are.


Lilah does not like this exercise. She instantly fiddles with her shirt and hands.

4. Music

I was told to always use the same song when doing our exercises. The brain then knows that when this song is playing it is time to wind down. I have chosen the song I Will Be Still by Young Oceans. I am addicted to all their music!

5. Massage/Scent

Once in bed, I massage the girls with Lavender Baby Lotion. I massage along the spine, where tension knots form, and the back of the neck and skull. I then massage behind the ears and between the eyes, across the forehead. And finally, I massage around the belly button.

With Zoe, this doesn't work well. She laughs and giggles. I cannot massage her jaw line and my massage with her has to be very light and slow. As soon as I massage her forehead she relaxes.

6. Warm Buddies

I bought these warm buddies, but you can use any type of hot pad. After the massage, I place their bears on their tummies, tuck them in and say goodnight!


So we are doing this for a month and then will go back to the Psychologist and reassess.

I think we all experience anxiety on some level, that we are all on the spectrum to some degree and that these types calming exercises can be beneficial to us all when needed. This is why I liked this Psychologist so much, because to me, this all seems very common sense.


Anonymous said...

What wonderful therapy. I struggled at one time about yoga and the stigma attached to it. I think it is one of the most amazing exercises (therapies) there is. If only I would do them more often.
To be able to actually see the difference between your girls when they are working on the different kinds of therapies must be quite an eye opener.Minerva

the meaklims said...

just read your two posts Paige. How interesting and thank you so much for sharing this private information - I think it benefits us all to some degree. I would also love to know what effect this has, a month from now.

Please keep us posted.

Patrick and Christina said...

Wonderful post Paige! LOVE how you have modified Yoga and made it work for you and the girls AND that you focus on what is outside for the girls until the inside is truly settled. What an amazing psychologist you have found...good intuition!

I work all the time on breathing with Su Yee. If I see the tension rise we stop and take deep relaxing breaths, check in and do what is necessary to decompress. She has responded well but I think I am going to add a few more pieces to our bedtime routine.

So thankful that you posted this!


Marie said...

You must be incredibly patient! Can't wait to hear more in the next few months. I think you hit the whole yoga thing right on the true.

Denise said...

I'm so glad you wrote this all out. It's fascinating to read how the girls respond so differently to the therapy and exercises. I think I will try the ball for Giselle - if I can find one that would be small enough for her ;) It also made me think about her lips as they suddenly get so dry at times. I will be watching more closely to see if it is stress related and not just assuming she hasn't been drinking enough. I am looking forward to following you on the updates as to how they are responding to this long term.

I still can't make up my mind on yoga - every time I think I have made a decision, I change it ;)

Lani - the flowerlady said...

Hi...Wendy K sent me an e-mail introducing me to you and you so kindly sent me one, too! And I accidentally deleted it! I have a ton of questions but I am away for the next week at a conference! would you mind terribly sending me another e-mail...I can't wait to chat with you and read about your adventures!

Lani - the flowerlady
twitter: @flowerlady77

Sara said...

Another great insightful read. I agree that these interventions are really "common sense type stuff"... who knows I may even try a few of these on our dear girl. Keep us posted.

The Drinkwaters said...

Excellent post Paige! We too, struggle with anxiety and sensory issues. I'm glad you have found a practitioner that you feel confident in and who is helping with suggestions to relieve the stress and trauma in the girls.