Stress, Sleep & Anxiety
Everyone experiences anxiety as a response to stress from time to time, even children. Mild anxiety can help a young person cope with a difficult or challenging situation, such as taking an exam, by channeling that anxiety into positive behaviors, e.g., reviewing course material ahead of time in order to prepare for the exam. However, when anxiety is constantly present and appears to be an irrational fear of familiar activities or situations, then it is no longer a coping mechanism but rather a disabling condition (National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, n.d.). Anxiety Disorders These disorders often begin in childhood as early as 6 years of age, or in adolescence, and can interfere significantly with the performance of everyday occupations (NIMH, n.d.). Common symptoms are: 1. excessive, unexplained worry 2. difficulty managing the worry 3. restlessness or unexplained nervous energy 4. tiring easily 5. difficulty concentrating or loss of thoughts (“mind going blank”) 6. irritability 7. muscle tension 8. sleep disturbances. Brain imaging can now demonstrate the biology of anxiety disorders (NIMH, n.d.). These types of studies have revealed atypical brain activity in children with anxiety disorders (e.g., not being able to differentiate between threatening versus non-threatening situations), as well as brain circuitry changes during adolescence which make females more prone than males to developing mood and anxiety disorders.(Bonder,2010).
-Reference: Occupational Therapy’s Role in Mental Health Promotion, Prevention and Intervention with children and youth. Anxiety Disorders AOTA.org
At Brain Harmony, many treatment plan included the completion of the Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) at home for 5 days because it is so effective in calming the hard wiring of the neurological system. Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, the SSP is a five-day intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitively while enhancing social engagement and resilience. By calming the physiological and emotional state, the door is opened for improved communication and more successful therapy. This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to reorganize the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage. This allows the client to better interpret not only human speech, but importantly, the emotional meaning of language. Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviors and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate, and engage are often seen. The SSP when delivered by Occupational Therapists has been effective in calming the emotional and physiological state by improving vagal regulation of the heart and improving auditory functions, as well as, improving difficulties in social communication.
“I can’t even begin to tell you all of the benefits I’ve been seeing! Falling asleep on time is probably the first benefit I noticed. My thought process is much, much clearer; I seem to be much more ‘aware’ of my thoughts, and my internal state in general. The most important aspect of my progress is something I’ve noticed very recently – I can now pay attention to someone else talking during a conversation for long periods of time without zoning in and out. I can’t even begin to tell you how important this is for me.”
– Happy Executive from New York