Q:

Lately, I have been having trouble sleeping at night. I get into bed early because I am so tired from my long day at work and with my children, but I cannot sleep. My mind races and I start to think about all the things I did not get done and all the things I need to do the next day. The problem is that I cannot do anything the next day because I am just too tired from not sleeping. Please help me stop worrying so I can get some sleep.

A:

It sounds like your anxiety is keeping you awake at night – and then your sleep deprivation is not allowing you to accomplish important things during the day. This is a vicious cycle that occurs when we have trouble controlling our anxiety. There are some easy steps you can take to minimize the anxiety and allow yourself a restful night’s sleep.

The Mayo Clinic suggests exercise to help reduce anxiety. They explain, “Exercise may also boost
feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.” Picking a physical activity, like swimming or walking with a friend, can have positive benefits for both your body and mind. Additionally, when you exercise, your body is more tired in the evening and will more easily relax into sleep.

If you are still lying in bed and cannot fall asleep even after you have done some physical activity during the day, and the thoughts that are keeping you awake are tasks you need to complete, write them down. This way, you know you won’t forget what you have been thinking about while you lie in bed staring into space. Keep a pad of paper and a pen on your night table so you do not have to get up when you are already lying in bed.

When you wake up in the morning, take that list and label the things you have to do in order of importance. What needs to get done that day? What can wait until tomorrow or next week? Making a list of your priorities will allow you to see your concerns in perspective so you can focus on the big picture.

Q:

Ijust cannot control my seven-year-old daughter. Whenever she doesn’t get her way – in public – she throws a huge tantrum. She begins to kick and scream if I say “no” to even her smallest request. Aside from being embarrassing, it is starting to affect my other children. They notice that she gets more attention when she acts out. How can I get my daughter to stop her tantrums?

A:

Itappears from what you describe that your daughter is testing boundaries to determine what she can do to get your attention and her way. Children who throw tantrums are both asking for attention and expressing themselves in the only way they know how to at that moment.

The key to reducing or eliminating these tantrums is teaching your daughter that tantrums do not help her get what she wants, and coaching her to communicate in a constructive way.

As embarrassing and inconvenient as it is, you have to avoid giving into the tantrum. If you are in a public place, this often means leaving (even when you are in the middle of the supermarket with a full shopping cart) and taking your daughter home to calm down.  Once home, allow her to sit and play in her room until she stops her screaming and kicking. Leaving the supermarket without the item she wanted is the punishment, but placing her in her room should not be translated into a punishment. Rather, this time alone should allow her to figure out how to relax on her own. Once she is calm, you can talk about why you left the supermarket and explain to her how that could have been avoided. But you should not give into the request that began the tantrum.

The second important element in controlling tantrums is teaching your daughter how to communicate her frustration. She might feel that the only way anyone listens is if she screams. It might be hard to understand why she gets so upset over something as small as not being able to climb the shelves in the supermarket. Nevertheless, empathizing with your daughter and telling her, “I understand that you are really upset that you cannot do that because it is dangerous,” will show her that you will pay attention to her even if she doesn’t scream. She will be more willing to calmly share her frustrations if she thinks you are going to listen and understand.

Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld, founder and director of the SOS program, is an educator and educational consultant with specialization as a keriah and reading coach. Serving the Jewish community for close to 30 years, she has experience providing evaluations, G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness.