Alyssa Wermers, LCSW

Therapy Services * Dacono, CO

Breathing through transitions

As you may have heard, I am relocating my office from Johnstown to Firestone in less than two weeks. I have been frantically running here and there trying to prepare everything so the move can go smoothly. I’ve also found myself worrying about things that I have no control over in the present moment. Now you might be wondering, why bothering writing this? Isn’t this blog supposed to link to stories from movies or books – you know, our cultural narrative? Yes, that’s been the theme. But this time I’m going to switch it up and relate to emotional dysregulation from my own narrative because I am, just like the people in the stories, a human too.

When I decided to move my office space I experienced a cornucopia of emotions. Excitement, relief, nervousness, pride, and fear, just to name a few. Now as the transition date looms closer I’m starting to notice the anxiety increasing. What if my stuff won’t fit, what if the waiting room is too small, what if I disturb my new office mates? The list goes on and on. What I am experiencing is an emotional response during a transition due to the fear of the UKNOWN.

The fear of the unknown is biologically wired in us. It’s actually very important for it to be there. Without this fear, our bodies and minds wouldn’t be ready to respond to surprises, challenges, or the unexpected. That means that to a point, we are supposed to worry about things. It’s what keeps our systems active and ready in case something happens (as things tend to do). And as with many other things in life, it depends upon a balance in order to be helpful. Too little and we are never prepared, too much and we are in anxiety overdrive. Anxiety overdrive is a common experience for many children, especially during transitions. Emotional regulation (the ability to experience a feeling and move through it) is something that is taught through life experiences, so it makes sense that children would need assistance in finding this balance when their system is activated during a transition.

A transition is defined as moving from one state to another. Some examples are changing a routine, switching from one activity to another, moving houses, progressing to a new life stage, or as in my case, moving an office. There is a potential for overwhelming anxiety in any of these situations. So how can you help your child develop skills to handle transitions?

First, name your experience out loud. “I am feeling a little bit anxious about moving.” Then take a deep breath to regulate your breathing. In order to increase your child’s ability to experience a feeling, it’s important to name the emotion.  Next, if you know what to expect, go ahead and say that out loud too. This helps decrease anxiety around the unknown, because it makes some of the information known. For example, “When I move on Monday, first I will get my new keys, and then I will pack my old office.”  Narrating your child’s experience out loud helps them make sense of what is happening and helps integrate the information in their brain in a healthy way.

Sometimes words only get us so far when trying to regulate through anxiety. The body carries anxious energy around with it, so offer some ways to release this. Sometimes deep pressure is helpful and you can do this by putting pressure on different parts of your child’s body – perhaps a bear hug, or just arm squeezes.  If you need to stay in place (maybe you’re in the car) go ahead and wiggle toes. If you have some more space, try going for a walk and naming items you see on your way.

Finally, remember that it’s always ok to feel scared or anxious, and make sure your child knows that. Try to stay away from blanket statements such as “It’s going to be fine.” This tells your child they shouldn’t feel nervous, which can only increase their fear, because now they might fear they are having a wrong feeling. Instead, say something like “It’s pretty scary to go to a new school. It’s ok to feel scared. I’m going to be with you when you go in for the first time and we’ll do it together.”

Transitions can be exciting, fun, and nerve wracking. They are also an opportunity to practice emotional regulation. Take a deep breath, acknowledge your feeling, and onward you will go!

The Purpose of Emotions- told through "Inside Out"

I was a little skeptical of “Inside Out,” when I first met Joy. Not another lesson about replacing everything with positivity, I thought during the first part of the movie. Her dazzling blue hair, her incessant happy attitude, and her “go-get ‘er” attitude were almost too much for me to handle. I suppose one could say that Joy is the epitome of happiness. But her heart is in the right place, she really wants the best for Riley (whoa do I sound like joy). And then comes Riley’s mom – and I got all nervous again. She explains to Riley that her dad is stressed and tells her to “put a smile,” on her face. In other words “Show us a happy face, no matter what’s underneath it and that will get us through.” Yikes! My insides were tightening. “Alyssa, take a deep breath, feel my tight insides, I will survive,” I told myself as I continued to watch. And thank goodness, because this movie sure knew what it was talking about.

Read More

Lessons from Matilda - the impact of parents

I still remember the cracking of the spine every time I’d smooth out the pages to keep reading. A book about a girl who loved books…what could be better? I must have read it a dozen times as a kid. Now as I read Matilda, I have a different experience. Don’t get me wrong – there is still the magic of kids outsmarting Ms. Trunchbull and the feel good relationship between Ms. Honey and Matilda. But now the therapist in me cringes each time Matilda is discouraged from doing schoolwork, and my gut wrenches when I hear her parent’s insult her.

Read More

The journey of my sandtray

Working with my hands has never come naturally to me. So when I decided to add a sandtray to my therapy space, I naturally began by looking online to purchase one. I searched...and searched...and none called to me. It's time...I said. It's time to step out of my comfort zone and  challenge myself. It's time to build a sandtray.

Read More

You don’t have to do it alone…the value of help

Who do you look up to? Which superhero is your favorite? Who is your role model? These are questions that we get asked from time to time in school, job interviews, and during personal growth journeys. Most of us tend to answer with the big dogs…the hero who saved the day, someone who made history, the leaders. And sometimes we even go so far as to give them all the credit. Today I want to shed some light on the supporters, the no-names and the side-kicks who helped carry the burdens of the heroes.

Read More

The balance of protecting children and helping them process stress

It’s a natural instinct to want to protect children. It makes sense we don’t want our children to feel pain, deal with “adult matters,” or have to grow up to fast.  So maybe we tell white lies, leave out pieces of information, or say “I’m fine,” even when the pain shows behind our eyes. All in the name of protecting them, keeping them innocent, keeping them safe. This protection method can also result in an unfortunate side effect ….it can stunt emotional growth and result in fear based behaviors. Let’s take a closer look…

Read More

saints among us

 “We celebrate all the religions of the world in this room, Oliver. I'm a Catholic, which is the best of all the religions, really, because we have the most rules. And the best clothes. But among us, there is also a Buddhist, Agnostic, we have a Baptist, and we have an "I don't know", which seems to be the fastest growing religion in the world.” – Thoughts from Brother Geraghty from the movie St. Vincent.

Read More

Play = productivity

Ever heard of over-thinking? Or experienced  “writer’s block,” when trying to complete a paper? Ever not taken a break because “you had to get something done,” only to find it takes you twice as long to finish than if you’d just taken that break? Welcome to the traditional adult world…where production rules and play exists only if there is time on the side.

Read More

Let's be real

Hiccup. Born into a world he doesn’t fit into. Trying desperately to make up for it, he just ends up embarrassing himself even more. How to Train Your Dragon is about more than just dragons, it’s about finding our true selves, and the truths we discover when we decide to live true to our authentic self.

Read More

Kisses for pain...kisses for care

Lately I’ve been thinking about emotional energy…how I feel it, where I tend to express it, who I give it to. And who better to explore this through than Gale and Katniss in Mockingjay. My mind travels to the iconic moment in the story when Gale calls Katniss out. They’ve been trudging through destroyed District 12 when Gale has tears in his eyes, and Katniss kisses him.

Read More