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Local psychologist using new program to help kids cope with anxiety

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Anxiety can be a crippling disorder, especially for kids.

About 20 percent of children suffer from anxiety disorders, according to national statistics. Some children suffer symptoms well into their childhood.

A local Psychologist has developed a program called Hornets and Hippos that teaches parents and kids how to curb their anxiety through engaging the imagination and mindfulness.

Margaret Jessop, a licensed Psychologist in South Bend, treats many children where anxiety has taken over.

"It can cause a lot of disruption in what's normal for them -- going to school, dealing with peers, and even dealing with difficulties at home," said Jessop. "What makes this program different is I've integrated brain science, and mindfulness in helping children deal with anxiety."

The program is a series of workshops geared for kids ages 6-12 years old. It teaches them which part of the brain is the hornet, and which is the hippo.

"The hornet is the amygdala. We each have one on each side of the brain. It's a very small part of the brain where it is the fight or flight response. It triggers and cascades through the body," explained Jessop.

"The hippo is the hippocampus, which is right next to the amygdale, and it's a very important part of the brain where we learn and take in that context around us and move that into long-term memory."

Jessop says teaching them how the brain works allows children to normalize what they are feeling and identify the anxiety easier.

"They learn how the body responds to anxiety so we teach them what's normal and we practice strategies to combat back down like breathing mindfulness exercise," she said.

Jessop says she's had such positive responses from parents and kids attending the workshops that she plans on hosting more.

"So far, it's been very rewarding they seem to really enjoy it," she said.

This weekend, Jessop is hosting a workshop for kids with anxiety called "Hornets and Hippos: Taking an African Safari through Your Brain."

For more information: www.margaretjessoppsyd.com

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