Helping Our Struggling Children.

Whenever we run coaching sessions on personal resilience, the question always arises - "How can I look after my child who is struggling with anxiety but won't go for professional help?" It's a tough one, very tough, so tough that there is no definitive answer to cover all situations.

Here's what we can say about the increase in what I refer to as, ADS, Anxiety, Depression and Suicide. The marked increase in these things is due, in most cases, to one or all of three things;

  1. An overload of information for our prehistoric brain - social media, Google, too many choices and other contributors that have caused our brain to work much faster than previously. Not to mention the devices themselves that are impacting on our neuro-wiring.

  2. High expectations on ourselves and on others - we want things now and done correctly, we strive to have the best of everything, we sometimes compare ourselves to others and want to be like them, we must get the best marks, our school reports are like performance appraisals, and perfectionism is increasing.

  3. Social isolation - we don't talk face-to-face across the generations as we once did, we use devices more and more to communicate, we listen far too much to the voice inside our head that tells us 'I've got you, you can work through this', and when we are truly struggling we are reluctant to tell another because we feel like we have failed. We feel alone.

Current research indicates that it is not the big things that necessarily impact on us the most, it's lots of little things that accumulate and make as vulnerable when the big thing does happen. The above list is just that, lots of little things that accumulate.

To counter what is currently going on with our young ones, introducing a few little things can make a difference;

  1. Reducing the use of smart technology - it's a balance between doing practical and tangible things along with the use of technology.

  2. Spending one hour across the day talking face-to-face with people - not necessarily with friends, not talking with family, but also talking with; teachers, bus drivers, fellow passengers, shop assistants, the barber/hairdresser, any one and no one in particular, just with people of all generations. Listening to music is good for us, listening all day is not so good for us, removing the headphones every so often and saying hello with a smile is beneficial for both.

  3. C's gets Degrees - there is nothing wrong with striving to do the best that we can, in fact science shows us that putting ourselves under a little bit of pressure is good for our brain. However, if we have constant high expectations of always wanting the best, getting the best, being the best, we become disappointed when it doesn't happen. With our negativity bias, we remember the negative things much easier than the positive things, so they accumulate. Slightly reducing our expectations, immediately managing any disappointment when we don't get what we wanted, and making a plan to move forward following the disappointment all help to mitigate the negative impact when we don't reach exactly what we sought.

  4. Get outside and walk, run, bike, slide, fall, etc. - exercise, play, sun, fresh air, each of these things make a difference to our wellbeing. Join them all together and they make a massive difference.

  5. Breathing - when we become anxious our breathing is the first thing to change, we breathe short and shallow. There are three breathing techniques that we recommend, all breathing must be done through the nose;

  • To manage anger (our default setting) - Take a deep breath, hold it while counting to 4 inside your head, breathe out fully, count to 4 inside your head before breathing in and resuming normal breathing.

  • To reduce 'thinking' (of which we do far too much these days) - Breathe in to fully expand our lungs at exactly 6 seconds, breathe out to fully deflate our lungs at exactly 6 seconds, repeat this for 2 minutes, twice a day.

  • To get to sleep (if you wake in the early hours) - take 9 deep breaths; for the first 3 breaths imagine that really cold air is going up one or the other nostril (but you are breathing through both nostrils), for the next 3 breaths imagine really cold air is going up the other nostril, and for the last 3 breaths imagine that really cold air is going up both nostrils.

The big hurdle as a parent is sometimes getting our young ones to listen to us. Often, they won't and we push them more because we want to help them. These days, pushing on our young can end up pushing them further away. Coax them instead, do some of the things listed above yourself and maybe they will follow, this might lead to doing some of them together.

If they won't listen to you, maybe they will listen to this person -

If it is the little things that impact on us the most, then let's start with the little things. Our brain does not like to be forced to change, that's sometimes why we stay down in the mire. Doing one small thing daily is the way to make a change in our lives. Mt Everest was conquered in this way, just one small step at a time.

Let's talk!

It's story time.....

As you might know, we offer free advice and support to those who are struggling. As I put this post together with a tear in my eye, please take a few minutes out of your day to read the heart-warming feedback received from a man who took the courage to reach out and ask for help. Names have been removed to respect his privacy.

“I thought I'd let you in on how things are going now, in case you want to catch up.

You may recall, I seem to be a magnet for helicopter crashes, witnessing 2 in six months. One a mechanical failure, one a pilot failure, foolishly testing the theory that helicopters and power lines can become buddies (For the record, they don't).

I was told that I had a case of the PTSD and that I needed medicating and professional help. I felt that the word 'needed', was quite strong. I have been known to recreationally medicate in the past, I declined the offer this time, having experienced anti depressants in the past, I deal better emotionally, if I feel the emotion.

I went to see a Doctor, who seemed to glance over the issue and went straight to how to fix anger problems, I feel she heard all the things I was feeling, and found 'angry' was the easiest subject, she had experience in this field, and pamphlets, lots and lots of pamphlets.

I then went home and had a wine, actual wine, not a whinge, and thought things over. Medication wouldn't help, and the doctor didn't seem to offer any help either. The only way to get through this was by letting the people around me in, and being positive about the actions I take. In walks my 3 year old daughter.

She might only be 3, but she is going on 26. She is my best friend, my rock, my life and the entire reason I live. She could not sleep that night, so sat with me on the deck. She looked me in the eyes and said, 'whats the matter dad?'. I told her my head was sad about the helicopter crash, and that it was really hard for me to think straight, and I was angry that I was always angry at the time. She held my checks in her hands, looked me dead in the eyes and said...… 'Big breath dad, in through your nose, 1 2 3, out through your mouth, 1 2 3, see now you feel better, now give me a cuddle' (this is how I deal with her panic/tantrum/night terrors) I realised then, to look at everything as if I was a child, it’s so much easier that way. To her, a cuddle is this magic thing that fixes damn near everything. Since then, every day just before bed, she asks 'hows your head, dad?', and every night she gives me a cuddle regardless. My 3 year old is the best therapist I needed at the time.

I also bought gifts for my family, it took 3 days to hand out. Night one, at dinner, I talked about how my wife and I meet, the adventures we have had, the life we have made, the love we have for each other, the plans we have made for our future, and ultimately, how much I love her. I gave her her gift.

Night two, I talked about how my 3 year old therapist was born, how scared I was in the hospital, she was pinned to my wife's hip, face and shoulder wedged and how they thought she probably wont make it out alive. How my fear moved from being a father, to never meeting my baby. I spoke of the emergency C section, and hearing her cry the first time. I told how I wept for joy, how I could not sleep that night. I sat by the cot watching her sleep. How she is growing up and how proud of her I am. I gave her her gift.

Night three, I told of my 9 month old son, how he has the cheekiest grin, how I know he is going to be trouble, simply because he is my son. How I cant wait to see him grow, teach him to make things, ride a motorbike, dive, shave, and be a man. I gave him his gift. He ate the wrapping.

I did this to tell everyone that they are important to me, no matter what, I also did it to tell myself that when all the chips are down, and the darkness creeps in, and when its hard to see the hands at the end of my out stretched arms, if I just try hard, I can see them there, and they are reaching back to me, I know FOR A FACT, they will not let go.

Since then, its been a pretty steady upward curve, at times, its hard, but I feel like I'm back to being me.

Thanks Lance, for giving a shit when I needed it, I know your a busy man, It meant a lot for you to reply so fast, and call me.

I am in awe of what you do, standing in front of a crowd, telling everyone that feelings are all good, at the same time as telling sufferers, that feelings are all good.

Keep up the good work Lance, and if I can ever return the favour, it would be an honour to help”

We can do this, together, so let's talk!

Why Are We So Overwhelmed and is There a Solution?

Having spent time researching and working with numerous clients, there are three critical factors that currently contribute to our feelings of being overwhelmed, our feelings of anger, and our feelings of sadness. This appears to also be a reason as to why anxiety, and/or depression, and/or suicide is in most, if not all, families in the western world;

Our brains are overloaded with data;

  • We have to make so many choices today compared to earlier times, let's look at getting a simple cup of coffee: what type of coffee, what size, what to sprinkle on top, the type of milk, should I get a flavour, single or double shot, have here or takeaway, a marshmallow or chocolate? Then it's time to pay; pay by phone or card, which card to use, which gets me the most points, is it for business or personal, should I tap/insert/slide to pay. The process is exhausting, and that's just one decision to get a coffee.

  • We carry a phone in our pockets that gives us instant access to as much information as we ever need, and much more. Plus, we have a multitude of interactive platforms that allows us to communicate globally, and most have an addictive element to them which keeps drawing us back.

High expectations;

  • We expect higher standards from ourselves and from others than previously. At school we have reporting on students that resembles a performance appraisal rather than a report on their academic endeavours. At work we want to succeed, when we do so there is an expectation that we can do better, no matter how great our result. This cycle increases the expectations and increases pressure to perform at our highest level, continually.

  • Perfectionism is increasing, if something isn't just right we tend to look at the negative rather than the positive, we tend to neglect what we actually achieved. Our inner-critic speaks to us more and more - "I should have...", "They should have...", "It's just not good enough".

Social isolation;

  • Have you found yourself apologising for the interruption when you phone someone, do you find yourself no longer dropping by to see a friend without first notifying them well in advance, do you send an email or message rather than talk face-to-face?

  • Social media should be renamed anti-social media. A lot of us find ourselves either spending too much time on social media or being distracted by it. And, there can be a destructive element to the way the analytics operate.

There are other contributing factors I am sure, but these tend to be three major culprits. We can help ourselves by reducing the amount of time we spend looking at our phones, or by lowering our expectations or by communicating in various formats. However, we live in the real world and the real world is advancing so we need to advance with it.

Therefore, can we bring the solutions together in a single solution, you bet, talk with people, real people, as much as you can. Even if it means talking about the plethora of information available, or how we have such high expectations today, or even about the way in which social media operates.

Conversing with people face-to-face has been shown both in science and in research to be one of the most beneficial things that we can do to help ourselves and to help each other. With conversations comes socialisation, education, normalisation, and adaptation.

So, does communicating to educate work to reduce anxiety, depression, and in particular, suicide? Yes.

If you need proof, just look to Finland who had the highest rate of suicide in the 1990's. Through a whole of country approach - communicating, education, active involvement, and commitment - Finland turned their high suicide rates around significantly - Can Suicide Be Prevented -

We can do this, together, so let's talk!

Maybe It's Just Me?

Following the tragic events of last Friday in Christchurch, New Zealand (NZ), things seem different. Or maybe it's just me.

For the last few days, a lot of us have been trying to come to terms with the horror that unfolded. 'Surreal' is the most heard word used to describe what transpired. It doesn't happen here, this is not who we are, NZ is a caring country. Yet, it happened.

Feelings of numbness, sadness, guilt, regret, and anger ebbed and flowed across most of us.

Over the last few days since this tragedy, have you noticed how people seem to be more caring, more polite, there's no longer a rush any more. People are talking, sharing, caring, grieving, and crying.

Not me though, I am different and can handle this stuff, it's what I do for a living, keep moving forward, onward and upward. Maybe it's just me?

Like so many others, I continued about my day, stopping every so often on to reflect on what had occurred, but carrying on as there's work to be done. Sometimes feeling grateful that my family was safe, that the perpetrator was arrested, that he wasn't from NZ, that justice will prevail in the end, that time will heal all, that we can move on, that everything will be alright in the end.

Then, today, I went to Christchurch.

I went to Christchurch for a couple of meetings - one with my friend Nathan Wallis, the other with a caring organisation who helps workplaces with wellbeing. Great meetings; lots of talking, lots of sharing, lots of positivity, and a hug or two for comfort in what we had talked about. Friendship in the face of adversity.

In tragedy comes many things, the one that shone the most today was 'reaching out'. Nathan, the Executive GM of TriEx, the ex-colleague, the regional manager from the Rural Support Trust, the CEO of NZAA, the friend from my childhood who was on the plane home, all reached out to say "Hi".

I try to avoid this stuff, I do not need to feel what is going on, I do this for a job.

I did not recognise most of them, and had my head down as I often do, thinking about 'things'. Yet, they took the time and went out of their comfort zone to stop me and say "Hi". Humbling how strong the human spirit can be. Or, maybe it's just me.

Then, I arrived home at Auckland airport. As I walked out a voice called, "Hey Lance". Unexpected, as no one should be there to greet me. A man stood smiling in front of me, I did not recognise him but smiled back to greet him. "I was in your session at Fulton Hogan and remembered what you told us, it has helped me so much". "Thank you" I replied, "I am so pleased".

"I am here to meet my brother-in-law, he was killed last Friday".

No words.

The best I could do was, "I'm so sorry". And I hugged him, many times. For him first, and then again for him, and then again for him, as we chatted. The last time the hug was not for him, but for me, and I told him so. I selfishly wanted to feel his love. I was overwhelmed with sadness, with grief, with wanting to connect and to make it all better, to make it go away. But, maybe that's just me.

We each shed a tear, or maybe again it was just me.

Tragedy strikes when we least expect it, that's why it is called a tragedy. If we knew it was coming then we could prepare for it and it wouldn't be called a tragedy. The way to get through a tragedy is to open our hearts, not our heads, to grieve, to cry, to share, to feel, to care, to hug, and to love. That's how humankind (human kind) has survived, by caring for each other.

Grieve, feel pain, feel anger, feel hurt, feel sorrow, feel love. And, talk about it, openly, in a respectful and caring way. It is normal to feel this way, it's not just me, it is you as well.

We will get through this, together. Let's talk!

We Just Need To Adapt

I start all of my presentations with what I call a 'Got your attention now' opening line. I once started with "You'd think that I'd be much taller" when there was a long intro into my background and experience. It then became, "Yes, I specialise in suicide intervention, come and see me later if you are feeling unwell". Those two opening always got a laugh, the second more of a nervous giggle.

Today I start these presentations with, "Anxiety, depression and/or suicide (ADS) is in very family in the western world, and it is in yours". No laughs, just silence. And, sometimes a tear.

Then I grab them with, "Let's see what is going on and what we can all do about it, together". That's the key, together.

So is ADS in every family in the western world? Here's a conversation Donna and I had today in a Mall in Vancouver.

We had just arrived after delayed flight and little sleep. Groggy, we couldn't find a table and Donna asked if we could sit next to two young men (teenagers). Of course. During our first meal ever in Canada, one of the two said - "Hey, are you both from Greece", we were eating Greek food. No, we are from NZ. "Wow, you don't look like Kiwis". Compliment accepted.

He then asked to me "What do you do?" "Fix heads" I said. Ha! I said I try to help people who are struggling with negative thoughts, right down into depression and suicide. He said - "Oh you can start right here, we both tried to kill ourselves". His mate followed with "I jumped off a bridge".

Wow, welcome to Canada, eh!

We talked for some more, I was so lucky to have my wife with me to keep me from becoming too emotionally involved. After a chat, I grabbed my phone and asked them if they trusted me, "Of course" they said. (Very trusting these Canadians).

We spent 30 seconds doing the latest breathing technique we have just recently published. Looking at them both was awesome, I asked one, "What are you thinking". His reply "Nothing, there's nothing in my head". Job done. He went on to say that he cannot stop from talking to himself all the time.

What are the chances of two Kiwis flying into Vancouver, sitting in the same Mall, at the same table, and finding the one thing in common, suicide. The chances are high, if it is so common.

I post this, not for the work that we do, but for what we are all going through. ADS is in every family, it is in mine and it is in yours.

We, all of us, have a duty of care. To care for ourselves first so that we can then care for others. This epidemic known as suicide can be stopped, and we will do so, together.

Firstly by opening up the conversation about the causes, next by removing the stigma, thirdly by learning how to adapt to our dynamic world through taking a moment in time to breath for just a few minutes.

By sharing our little story, Donna and I hope that this post has helped in some small way to encourage you to keep moving forward, because that's the direction that we are all heading in, breathing as we do so.