Archive for March, 2011

TLC Kids Fitness is a youth fitness and nutrition program we’ve developed here at The Listening Center.  The primary goal of TLC Kids Fitness is to educate the children on exercise and nutrition in a fun, hands-on way and, also, in a way that will empower them to continue these life lessons even after the formal training ends.  We have run this new program several times with great success for kids who are currently receiving behavioral health services from a local NJ State funded case management agency.

As many of you who are familiar with The Listening Center know, we are a counseling and wellness provider who believes in the mind – body approach.  We are deeply concerned with the growing number of children in our community who are obese, as well as the trend towards sedentary living we see in youth today.  We created this type of program as a way to help children and adolescents cope with not only their physical needs, but also to help with  their particular emotional and behavioral challenges.  We know from both the leading research of the day and our own clinical experience, that exercise and nutrition play a large role in the emotional and psychological health of an individual, young and old alike.

TLC Kids Fitness is currently run as a 7-week program, meeting once a week for 90 minutes.  The program utilizes the American Council on Exercise (ACE) “Operation Fit Kids” curriculum along with the expertise of our own staff, who hold both ACE certifications in personal training as well as Youth Conditioning Specialist certifications.

Each week the kids participate in an age appropriate work out with two trainers, Coach David and Coach Brian.  Coach David and Coach Brian focus on exercises that the kids can do anywhere, rather than ones that can only be done in a gym-type setting because it is a goal of the program that what the kids learn is sustainable once they leave.  Coach David and Brian focus on exercises, circuits, and exercise games and obstacle courses that utilize little more than the kids’ own bodies.  Another focus for the fitness piece is that the exercises are to be functional.  Coach David and Coach Brian steer away from isolation “body-building” type exercises, emphasizing instead full-body, compound movements based on natural movement patterns.  These are much more effective in getting a person functionally fit.  The over-arching goal of the fitness piece is that it is FUN for the kids.  As any parent knows, if it’s not fun, your kid’s not going to want to do it.

After the kids work out, we move into the next segment – nutrition.  Each week, there is  a different focus.  For instance, one week we focused on walnuts as an excellent source of brain food.  We brought in some walnuts, still in the shell, so the kids could see how walnuts, in their natural state, resemble our brains.  A different week we introduced them to pomegranates in a similar way.  Again, as with the exercise piece, our goal for the nutrition portion is for it to be fun and engaging so that the children leave the program excited about healthy food, rather than with the feeling that eating nutritious food is something they “should” or “have to” do.  The kids also receive a large bag of fresh fruits and vegetables each week. The idea is that this will help enforce what they learn and encourage both the children and their families to make some healthier food choices.

The final piece of this program is the time spent with the clinically licensed therapist, who is present for the full 90 – minute session each week.  As these kids are facing emotional and behavioral challenges, the clinical therapist is there to assist in any situations that might develop, but also to lead group discussions at the opening and closing of the 90 minute sessions.  This time serves to give voice to the children so we can understand how they are responding to the program.  It also helps reinforce all that they are learning.

While this program has been highly successful and it has been wonderful to see the positive change in these kids lives, there are some limitations to the continued success of the program…..not surprisingly, the biggest limit is funding.  This program works best if the child is able to go through it more than once, so a recurring model would be most ideal, allowing for repetition, consistency and true learning and behavior change. This model would also afford the children ample time to develop the ever – important trust and relationship building with the coaches and therapists. Currently, we are seeking grant money for this type of expansion.  If you or anyone you know would like to be a part of this wonderful program that helps the children in our community and speaks to a need that is currently unaddressed, please contact us through our website.

We are also exploring the same type of programming for private practice clients and would be happy to discuss and develop very specific programs to meet your individual and group needs. Please let us know if you have any questions about this option as well.

Panic Attack Disorder

Panic attacks, also known as anxiety attacks, are sudden surges of overwhelming fear and terror that strike with no apparent warning; that is, the fear seems unrelated and disproportionate to the circumstances at hand.  This overwhelming fear is often accompanied by symptoms such as a racing, pounding heart, feeling dizzy or faint, tingling or numbness in the hands or fingers, feeling sweaty or having chills, chest pains, shortness of breath, and feeling out of control.  Panic attacks usually last around 10 minutes, but can seem longer if you experience a succession of attacks.  It is estimated that one out of every 75 people worldwide will experience a panic attack at some point in their lives, but it is only if you have recurring panic attacks that disrupt your ability to go about your daily life that you would be diagnosed with panic attack disorder.  In many people the symptoms of panic attack disorder develop in association with major life changes, such as getting married, having a child, or starting a first job, as well as major life stressors.  The highest incidence of the onset of panic attack disorder occurs in the 17 – 25 years of age range, but people of all ages can experience anxiety attacks.

The thing about panic attacks that makes them so debilitating is that often after you’ve had a few in succession, you begin to have panic attacks about having panic attacks, especially at times when, or places where, you don’t feel safe such as a crowded public place like a train crammed with people.   Panic attacks are very frightening because you feel completely out of control and often like you might just pass out.  People with panic attack disorders will find themselves avoiding situations they think might lead to a panic attack, or places they are too scared to have a panic attack at.  It is this avoidance that causes the most interference in a person’s ability to live normally.

Panic attack disorders, like anything else, can be treated in a variety of different ways and should be tailored to suit each individual patient.  But, across the board, most clinical therapists will teach patients with this condition some coping mechanisms to help prevent the attacks, as well to help them deal with the attacks when they come.  Some of these coping techniques are outlined below, but it is recommended and advised that if you experience panic attacks with any regularity that you consult with a licensed therapist and not attempt to treat yourself.

It is important to note that many of these techniques and coping/preventative strategies are good practice for all people, whether they experience panic attacks or not.  I don’t know a single person who does not experience anxiety in their life about one thing or another.  Panic attacks / anxiety attacks are just forms of anxiety.  I encourage all of you reading this post to incorporate some of these techniques and strategies into your life as a way to lessen and prevent any anxiety you may experience.

1.  Deep Breathing & Meditation

Practice daily mediation to reduce stress and anxiety.  Also, if you find yourself feeling anxious or having a panic attack, focus on consciously taking deep breaths.  Shallow breathing (also called chest breathing), which usually accompanies a panic attack, disrupts the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and, in turn, your heart rate increases, you get dizzy, and your muscles tense, thus worsening the symptoms of your anxiety attack.  Clear your mind of everything but your breath.  (Counting will help.  Slowly count to 5 in your head as you breathe in, and again as you breathe out.)  This type of breathing will slow down your heart rate and release tension.

2.  Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique (PMR)

PMR is a technique developed to reduce anxiety.  The thinking behind the technique is that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can lessen the anxiety by consciously releasing tension in the muscles.  The technique works in a sequential pattern, asking you to alternately tense and then release various muscle groups.  It does take practice and will become more effective with time.  There are CDs and MP3 downloads you can purchase that will guide you through PMR.

3.  Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.  Before beginning an exercise program, always get clearance from your doctor.  It is also recommended to seek the advice and knowledge of a certified personal trainer who can design an exercise program specifically tailored to your needs.

4.  Avoid Stimulants

Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.  Remember, coffee is not the only source of caffeine.  It is also in teas, chocolate, and soda.

5.  Start a Panic Diary

It is important to understand your particular anxiety / panic attack triggers.  A diary will help you discover any patterns your anxiety may have.  While an anxiety attack may seem to come from nowhere, in all likelihood there is some thought pattern or situation triggering it that you are unaware of.  Some thoughts we have, called ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), are so “automatic” that we don’t really consciously register we are having them.  When you find yourself feeling anxious or having an attack, first control the symptoms using deep breathing or PMR.  Once it is under control, immediately go to your diary to write down any thoughts  you are having while they are still fresh.  Also, describe exactly what your were doing and where you were when the anxiety attack occurred.

6.  Have Patience

There is no point in increasing your anxiety levels by being anxious about how your treatment is going.  Do your best, whatever that may be (which will always change depending on the circumstances), and then let it go.


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