How to manage stress, anxiety, and depression

Paige Lembeck, PhD, a pediatric psychologist, spoke to the CureDuchenne community in a webinar about how they can best manage stress, anxiety, and depression for themselves and their children. Stress and anxiety are part of everyday life, especially with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Too much of it can have negative health consequences, but at the right levels they can boost your performance.  

Here are five takeaways from her informative presentation on symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and tips to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

  1. Signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety include excessive worries, fears, OCD symptoms, avoidance of situations, physical responses like sweating, racing heart, concentration difficulties, and separation problems. For depression, symptoms range from persistently low mood and sadness (which can look like irritability in children), withdrawal, low self-esteem, thoughts of self-harm, loss of interest in activities, or changes in sleep or appetite.
  2. CBT can be helpful to address stress, anxiety, and depression because it deals with the interaction between thoughts, emotions, bodily reactions, and behaviors. It shows you how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, making you feel better and behave in healthier ways.
  3. Relaxation training is a key component of CBT. It helps to “rewire” the nervous system response to anxiety and stress. Part of relaxation training includes diaphragmatic breathing. This is the process of breathing out, but moving your stomach in and out with each breath rather than your chest. While it can be difficult to master, it will become easier with time and practice. It can also be amended for kids with Duchenne that have increased muscle weakness.
  4. Imagery scripts are helpful relaxation exercises, as they are a way to create a peaceful story in your mind that can change your emotions and bodily state. It uses soothing scenes, like a desert oasis, beach, or mountaintop to help relax muscles, calm the mind and body, and encourage people to focus on breath.
  5. It’s important to seek professional help when symptoms of stress persist, affecting functioning or causing distress, or when certain actions seem inappropriate for a child’s developmental level.

Here are some helpful resources to manage stress, anxiety, and depression:

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