FEEL DISTRESS? NO THANKS!! BUT CAN IT REALLY DECREASE MY SUFFERING?

Before leaving for vacation I had everything planned out and organized. I wanted to go on my trip and have nothing to worry about, to be able to be in relaxation mode from the second I left work. I wrote my next three weeks blogs, I did all my notes (a rarity for me), I did the laundry, cleaned the house, I was ready to go.

This worked wonderfully. I had an amazing vacation. Everything went as planned. Not a care in the world. I was ready to come home, relaxed and stress free. I had planned a Sunday to recover and re-adjust before returning to work.

When I landed I was waiting as the plane was taxiing to its gate and, just like everyone else, I turned on my cell phone. Then BAM reality hit. All my planning was gone. I was overwhelmed with stressors and to dos. I had expected to have emails to respond to, but not like this:

  • I was being audited by 2 insurance companies (every therapists worse nightmare)
  • A clerical error had accidently ended my relationship with an insurance company and they needed me to “request” reinstatement
  • And worst of all, my cat of 14 years, was dying and may not make it until I got home

I was flooded with emotion; my thoughts were racing. “How am going to handle all of this?” “What if he doesn’t make it until I get home?”  “Was my relaxing vacation a waste because I am so stressed now?” It didn’t feel like I even went away. The list went on and on.

Then I had to pause. What was really in my control? What could I address in this moment? Nothing. This was a moment of suffering for me. All I could really do was be in the moment, and feel the grief. Allow myself to feel the loss. I needed to practice mindfulness and self-compassion. The skills I preach every day and in the moment, I had lost. I was consumed with anxiety and frustration about work and grief about my cat.

As I began to slow down and allow myself to just be, the feeling of the loss of my cat got more intense. Ironic I know, but this was better. I was able to feel it, to know that this was the moment I was in and it wouldn’t last forever. My vacation was relaxing and nothing can take those moments away, they came and they went. This moment was a moment of pain and I needed to feel it. Trying to avoid my feelings had left me feeling overwhelmed and confused.

It is easy to get caught up in our thoughts and emotions. They sometimes have a repetitive quality. Trying not to think about our thoughts or feel our feelings only amplifies them (aka avoidance). This is why practicing mindfulness is so important. Learning to be aware and accept distressing thoughts and feelings helps us allow them to and go without battling with them.

Mindfulness reduces suffering.
And suffering is the result of resisting reality. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional-Buddha

We resist reality by constantly thinking about the past or the future.

Focusing on the past leads to depression, hopelessness, and isolation. Focusing on the future leads to  anxiety, fear and worry.

Focusing on the past or the future leads to being overwhelmed. Now we are dealing with whatever emotions thinking about the past and future brought up, but also whatever emotions we are currently experiencing. It’s too much!

This is what happened to me when my plane landed. My thoughts and feelings began to be overloaded with the memories of the past and plans/fears of the future. I was unable to handle the immense sorrow of my loss. It wasn’t until I began to experience the moment that I was able to begin to grieve and process my feelings.

To learn more about how mindfulness can help change your life click here!

SMART PHONES: FRIEND OR FOE?

Teens today are growing up in a different world than any of the generations before them. They are the first generation to be born with Smart technology already completely in existence. Even the millennials to some extent grew up as the technology advanced. Though tech is always advancing, for the iGens internet, apps, FaceTime, and more have been at their fingertips from birth. I have watched my 2-year-old niece know how to unlock a cell phone and by 3 know how to use YouTube for kids.

There is a growing mountain of research that shows a correlation between the rise of smartphone usage and rates of depression, suicidality, and anxiety in teens. The pressure of always being connected to your social life doesn’t allow teens time to relax and decompress after school. Not to mention that social media is not an accurate representation of a teens social world. The pressure to “fit in” or be “perfect” is unrealistic (but I could probably fill a page on social media alone). So the downside of smartphones/technology seems overwhelming apparent:

  • Social media pressures
  • Seemingly unavoidable access to damaging or dangerous apps
  • Argument inducer between teen and parent
  • Increases rates of depression and anxiety/decreases ability to cope
  • Can be addictive

However, nothing is ever one-sided, there are positive aspects of smartphones. There are apps that help with mental health issues and teach coping skills. Many of them are FREE: Calm, Moodpath, SuperBetter, and Happify for example. There are also apps that help you as parents organize your life, which can make things less stressful. As a parent of a teen this can make a big difference. I personally use apps tracking grocery lists and weekly recipes, such as Yummly or Anylist. Taking as much work out of chores as possible is a lifesaver in any busy household. Teens often feel the same way, they use apps to help them study and organize their school/homework.

Sometimes, I think to myself, I wish there was app to make me want to work-out or stop me from eating sweets late at night. However, that is some of the downside again. Smartphones can do so much for us we stop practicing doing things for ourselves. That is where parenting comes in. Not only do the iGens, your teens, have it harder now than ever, as parents so do you. You have to set limits around screen time. You have to teach them how to wait and be patient; how to feel distress, how to fail and how to succeed. You have to teach them how to be in the moment not just take pictures of the moment, how to have a conversation not IM in code, how to enjoy activities and relax not just engage screen time to distract.

I was talking to one of the parents I work with the other day who stated that she feels that kids shouldn’t have phones until at least 7th grade. I don’t know that would ever happen. Kids today often have smartphones in elementary school. Then I heard about this school cell phone pilot program in Boston:

At the City on a Hill Circuit Street charter school in Boston, students entering school in the morning are met by administrators fanned out at the front door with their hands out. One by one, they take students’ phones, slip them into a soft pouch, and lock them closed with a snap that works like the security tags you find on clothing at department stores. Students take their pouched phones back, but can only unlock them with a special device at dismissal time, nearly eight hours later. 

Naturally, the students were outraged. How could this be happening? How can they live without their phones? How will they socialize? Connect? Communicate?

However, much to their surprise it turned out to freeing for them. Forced freedom!

One student reported that” she doesn’t reach for her phone as much anymore because if you don’t feed the habit; the habit eventually slows.” Students reported having more conversations and paying attention more in class.

Smartphones are a part of our lives. There is no way around that. As parents you can help your teen learn to not feel tethered to their phone. Ironically, there are apps that help limit screen time.

If you need help support your teen with screen time or other parenting issues I can help. Contact us to schedule your parent screening today!

WHY WON’T MY TEEN TALK TO ME? DBT 6 LEVELS OF VALIDATION CAN HELP

As a teen-focused therapist one of the most common things I hear from parents is “my teen won’t talk to me.” Parents want nothing more than to know what their teen is thinking and feeling. On the other hand, one of the most common things I hear from teens is “they don’t listen”, “they don’t understand,” or “they just yell at me.”

Why is there such a different perspective? It is hard for parents to see their teen in pain. Parents often tend to go into “fix it” mode. They give unwarranted advice, discuss how they “would handle things.” They end up trying to problem-solve the emotion away leaving the teen feeling unheard. So what to do instead? Validate! In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Marsha Linehan identified 6 Levels of validation. She believed it is impossible to over-estimate the importance of validation.

Validation: It is that simple.

Validation is the acknowledgement of another person’s perspective and feelings. Often parents mistake it for complete agreement. This is not true. For example, if your teen says “I hate you, you are the worst parents ever,” you may not be inclined to agree with this. However, you can validate it! You can say “Given the situation (being told no), I can understand that you feel this way.”

The first level is being present. When was the last time you gave 100% of your attention to your teen? There are so many ways to be present with your teen, just sitting with them through intense emotions, hugging them when they cry, listening without giving advice, turning off your cellphone and other distractions, etc. The more present you are with your teen the more they will come to you.

The second level is accurate reflection. This is when you show your teen you were listening by verbalizing what you heard them say. Accurate reflection may look like “So I hear you saying..” or “It sounds like you feel…” It is important to remember not to just repeat back their wording verbatim.

The third level of validation is reading your teen’s behavior and guessing what they might be feeling. Not everyone is in touch with their feelings so it may be difficult for your teen to tell you what they feel. Based on what they share and how they behave, you can guess at what they might be feeling. For example, “I’m guessing you were hurt when they didn’t invite you” is a level three validation.

The fourth level is understanding your teen’s behavior in terms of their history and biology. Your teens past experience influence their thoughts and feelings today. If your teen fell from a tree as a child, they may not like heights. An example of a level four validation would be “given your past experience I can understand why you would feel that way.”

The fifth level is normalizing or recognizing emotional reactions. Many teens worry that they are the only one that feels the way they do. Knowing that other people would feel similarly in the same situation helps to reduce the painful reaction. For example, “Of course you’re worried. Taking your driver’s test is scary for a lot of people.”

Level six is radical genuineness. This is when you understand the emotion on a deep level. This is treating your teen as a “real” person with “real” feelings. Radical genuineness meets your teen with love and support demonstrating belief that they are capable of managing their own feelings.

What can validation do?

Validation is a core parenting skill in DBT it encourages your teen to talk to you and communicate with you more openly. Validation helps to build trust and shows your teen that you value what they have to say. Validation communicates respect for your teen. Validation takes practice, so be patient with yourself as you are starting a new form of communication.

Need help communicating with your teen? We can help! Give us a call today at Mindful Healing at (860) 387-5689 or click here to schedule your FREE parent screening.

11 SECRETS THAT WILL ALMOST ALWAYS HURT A RELATIONSHIP, NO MATTER WHAT

Whether it’s happening now, or affected you in the past, it’s important to be open about any struggles you’ve had with addiction. “Addictions require support, meetings, treatment, etc. and your partner deserves to know about it,” mental health therapist Lianna Tsangarides, LCSW tells Bustle. “Addictions are considered a family disease and will impact both of you and this should be open conversation.”

Read full article here

11 PIECES OF OUTDATED DATING ADVICE TO IGNORE, ACCORDING TO THE EXPERTS

Sometimes, waiting between calls or texts can really test your patience. Luckily, according to dating experts, it’s a piece of advice you shouldn’t consider anymore. “Send a text or PM the next day if you want,” Lianna Tsangarides, a licensed clinical social worker, says in an e-mail to Romper. “Let someone know if you are interested or if you aren’t.” No need to hold off until you’ve hit an arbitrary milestone.

Read full article here

3 SIGNS YOUR TEEN MAY BE DEPRESSED AND 3 WAYS TO HELP THEM

Teen depression rates are rising. You probably see on the news or in your social media feeds posts about teen suicide. This isn’t meant to scare you, but to inform you. Teenagers today are struggling with overwhelming emotions. They are facing unrealistic pressure and expectations of trying to the best. They often need help learning how to recognize and understand what they are feeling. Let’s talk about signs of when you may need to help your teen manage their emotions.Teen depression rates are rising. You probably see on the news or in your social media feeds posts about teen suicide. This isn’t meant to scare you, but to inform you. Teenagers today are struggling with overwhelming emotions. They are facing unrealistic pressure and expectations of trying to the best. They often need help learning how to recognize and understand what they are feeling. Let’s talk about signs of when you may need to help your teen manage their emotions.

Sign 1

Social Withdrawal This is typically an indicator a parent will notice when their teen doesn’t want to social with their peers. Some teens withdrawal from some but not all friends. This is a good time to ask them what is going on. Remember to be validating and role model understanding. Depending on how they answer will determine your next steps. If there is a barrier you may want to seek outside support such as counseling.

Sign 2

Increased and Unexplained Aches and Pains  Depressed teen often complains of not feeling well. Common aliments include headaches and stomach aches. It is important to take them to their primary care physician to rule out any medical causes. Depression can lead to physical complaints that may impact school and social avoidance.

Sign 3

Irritable or Angry I know you are thinking isn’t every teen moody, but that’s not entirely accurate. While the brain is still developing impacting their mood shifts, the type of irritability and anger I am referring to is yelling, fighting, rage, cursing, or property destruction. Depression in teenage boys may look different than girls, boys may be more outward destructive behaviors. They may appear more oppositional and get involved with the wrong crowd, while girls may become more withdrawn.
Let’s talk about ways can help!

3 Ways to Help Them

1. Make face time a priority

This may simple but for some it is harder than it sounds. Quality time can say “you are important and a priority.” Take time each day to be totally focused on your teen.

2. Limit Screen Time

More and more research is showing the negative impact screen time is having on mental health. Teens often go online, play video games, or watch YouTube to avoid dealing with their emotions. Social media also creates tremendous pressure for teens to be perfect, comparing themselves to perceived versions of others’ lives. This is a standard no one can live up to. Talk to your teens about the impact of social media. Have social media contracts or discuss online safety.

3. Get active with your teen

Exercise is a great mood booster. Ask your teen what they want to do. This is a great way to bond as well. Suggest activities such as sports or hiking or promote volunteering or being a mentor.

This blog reviewed some of the signs may indicate your teen is depressed. There are many more that you can find here. Observe your child, get to know them, monitor if they are off their baseline. Ask questions and keep the dialogue going.

IF YOUR TEEN NEEDS HELP DEALING WITH DEPRESSION, I’M HERE TO SUPPORT YOU.

Click here to schedule you FREE 15-minute consultation call so that we can connect and discuss the next best steps for your teen. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

IMPROVE YOUR MOOD IN FIVE MINUTES

Lianna Tsangarides, social worker and therapist at Mindful Healing swears by it. “They say messy bed, messy head. I find that having a clean space can really turn my day around. I feel more productive and organized having taken the time to start my day off right. It’s a small ritual that helps to create a soothing environment for the rest of the day.”

Read full article here

13 GENIUS TRICKS TO HELP RELIEVE ANXIETY IN SOCIAL SETTINGS

If you’re having a hard time getting a convo going, and it’s upping your anxiety, try visualizing it first. “Take a moment to visualize how you would like to interact with others,” says Lianna Tsangarides, LCSW, in an email to Bustle. “Practice what you would say, role play it in your head. Take the time to use imagery to feel more comfortable and prepared.” Then give it a go.

Read full article here

5 FUN OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES FOR BUSY MOMS

“The phrase working mother is redundant” – Jane Sellman. For many mothers, this rings overly true. For any mother time with your children is precious, especially when balancing with the demands of a career. With the weather warming up and plants in bloom, kids are anxious to get outside. You want to be a fun and exciting mom, but it can be hard to plan and prepare for entertaining activities when you are pressed for time.

This list of 5 outdoor activities that are perfect for mothers that are short on time. They are simple, creative, fun ideas that don’t require a lot of planning or preparation.

1. Go On A Picnic

Grab a blanket, pack their favorite lunch, and head to your local park to enjoy the weather with your kids. In today’s fast-paced urban lifestyle a picnic is a great way for some family bonding.

2. Side Walk Chalk

Take your artwork outside! Sidewalk chalk is a stable of spring and summer activities. This is a great item to have on hand for when your children get bored. You can draw stories together, make superheroes, take turns tracing each other, etc. You can develop your child’s motor skills by playing hopscotch or four-square. Depending on your child’s age you can also work on shapes, numbers or animals with sidewalk chalk. Don’t forget about hangman. It’s an all-inclusive educational, fun idea!

3. Blowing Bubbles

Children love bubbles. Best part, you don’t even have to purchase bubble solution, which can go quickly with spills or losing the bottle. DIY bubbles are easy and fun, plus it saves you a bit of cash.

One recipe is to use 2 cups of warm water, 1/3 cup of dish soap, and ¼ cup of corn syrup, combine the ingredients in a large dish or bowl and stir gently. You can use a hanger as the wand to make the bubbles. Have large cookie cutters available? Those are fun to make bubbles in different shapes.

4. Sensory Scavenger Hunt

This is an exciting twist on a scavenger hunt and doesn’t require preparation. Identify smells and sounds or nature together! See what you and your children can find, the scent of flowers, sounds of birds.

5. Make a Bird Feeder

What better springtime activity is there than a DIY bird feeder? Bird feeders are great ways to enjoy wildlife at its best. It’s so much fun to sit back and watch all the wonderful birds. Not to mention that making bird feeders with the kids is a fun activity to get them outside and loving nature.

There are several DIY ways to make a bird feeders. A simple way is withplastic soda bottle and a couple of wooden spoons. You just have to make holes in the bottle for the spoons and be sure that you angle the spoons downward so that the birdfeed will drizzle onto them.

Quality time with your family doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. After a long stressful day at work relax and enjoy some family time with these fun activities.

This article was orignially written for The Lady Project in March 2018.