What Are You Afraid Of?

October 2012

Haunted houses, monsters and mummies arrive this month for some scary Halloween fun. But sometimes being frightened is no fun at all, whether you are terrified to give your big speech, or your child is waking up in the night scared of the dark.

Psychotherapist and school psychologist, Beverly Newman, explains that “young children can’t always distinguish fantasy from reality.”  Instead of simply telling your child that monsters aren’t real, Newman suggests helping your child banish the monsters.

You can make “No Monsters Allowed” signs, as well as arm yourselves with spray bottles, magic wands, and invisibility shields.  “A dehumidifier is an excellent monster-repelling machine,” comments Newman.

Most children’s fears change as they mature, and it is normal for them to exchange one type of fear for another.  However, sometimes a child’s fears or anxieties create problems in their daily life.  If a child has difficulties with social interactions, academic performance or sleep, a parent may want to seek help.

One option is play therapy.  This type of therapy enables a child to express what they can’t verbalize.

For example, a child might be asked to make a model of their world in sand.  Newman explains that this helps the child because, “feelings and attitudes which would be too threatening for a child to express directly, can be safely exposed as they are projected onto toys and objects chosen by the child.”

As we grow up, most of us conquer our fears of things like the dark, but we can have anxieties about plenty of other issues.  Anxiety, in and of itself, is not bad.  It is a feeling that can help guide our behavior.  For example, if you have anxiety about a big project at work, that should motivate you to complete it.

“When anxiety paralyzes you, and you don’t do things to take care of yourself, then it has crossed over a line and is not helping you,” says Dr. Robin Burks, clinical psychologist.

Many adults have anxiety over things like crowds, heights, flying, and social situations.  Dr. Burks suggests that yoga, meditation, deep breathing, exercise and positive self talk can help alleviate anxiety.  A person can also work on desensitization.  Dr. Burks explains this treatment method as “working through a hierarchy of increasingly anxiety producing situations.”

For example, if you are afraid to interact in large groups, you could start with two person interactions and gradually work your way up to increasing the number of people in the group.

Other people may experience ongoing anxiety because they are too focused on the future.  They are constantly worrying, “what if this happens?”  Dr. Burks advises that we don’t want to become too busy thinking about tomorrow to enjoy today.

So as Halloween approaches, remember to stock up on candy, and keep in mind this little piece of advice from Dr. Burks, “Happiness lies in the present.”

 

© Absolutely! Focus Media 2012

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