Fully qualified counsellor and is passionate about helping children, adolescents and families. Merrilyn has extensive experience in relationship counselling. She is a registered member of the Australian Counsellors Association.
I seem to get angry very quickly these days. I am under a lot of pressure at work and when I get home, I don’t want to hear my kids arguing together, or my partner telling me about bills that have arrived. My reaction is to yell at them most of the time, and I don’t like it. I know I need to find ways to control my feelings. What can I do? (Mark, 37)
Such a common problem, Mark. When leaving work we reflect on the challenges of the day, list the things we didn’t accomplish so we don’t forget them tomorrow, battle the traffic or public transport and then carry stress into the home. Adam Fraser in his book “Third Space” talks about making conscious decisions when moving from one space (work) to another (home). We can use the time in between (third space) to prepare ourselves in three ways.
1.Recognise what went well. Focus on what you achieved, the highlight of your day. Get positive!
2.Set a goal for the second space. Mow the lawn, play with the kids, or enjoy dinner with your family.
3.Decide who you want to be when you walk through the door. Do you really want to be that tired, stressed person? Make a conscious decision to be someone else. Imagine if the whole family uses this strategy!! Who will your kids and wife want to be when you walk through the door?!?
I have always been happy and healthy but lately, I have had shortness of breath, tightness in my chest and neck and shoulder pain. I am also feeling very emotional. My GP sent me for various tests (CT scans, exercise stress test, blood tests) to rule out serious issues but results have always come back good. I’ve been told that they could be anxiety episodes. There have been a lot of changes in my life recently, so it could be anxiety. How can I overcome these episodes? (Lisa, 41)
Lisa, it sounds like you are experiencing the survival instinct of fight or flight. In caveman days, a bear at the cave entrance, this response was helpful.
Today our challenges aren’t bears, but worry and fears about our modern life. The body’s response, however, is the same. Shaking the tension from your body can help here. Tense your whole body, then drop your shoulders and shake your hands by your sides. You should feel the tension leave. Some people feel this tension in their neck and jaw, causing stress headaches. Loosening your neck and jaw will help. We have built in relaxation signals from our body to our brain. The most useful one of these is the sigh. Breathing out long breaths helps us to relax when we are challenged. Sometimes we need the help of a counsellor to challenge the thoughts that cause these responses.
My nephew, who is 16, has been very withdrawn lately and not really communicating well with the family. He prefers to be alone in his room, reading or playing games. He is usually a pretty bubbly person and with a happy-go-lucky attitude, but in the last 6 months, he’s been acting differently – more reserved and quiet, and not sharing his feelings about much even when asked. His answer to the question, “Is everything ok?” is always “Nothing”. We are worried about him and not sure how to help him as we don’t know what the problem is. What can you suggest? (Carol, 29)
As with any relationship, communication is the foundation. Often when teenagers separate themselves, it takes a new ritual to change things. A weekly game of golf, a one-on-one dinner, even a challenge in a computer game can open communication. Of course, it’s important to match this attention with your teen’s interest. Teen years are full of changes and challenges. Asking questions like “Is everything ok?” can feed the anxiety and confusion felt during this time and is often rejected out of hand. More specific, open questions and conversations can have better results. Try questions like “What is your book about?” or “What progress are you making in your game?” These are more likely to be conversation starters than “Is everything ok?” Many teens seek solitary sanctuary. However, if you feel your teen is really isolated, enlist help from a counsellor.
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