Though everyone feels intense negative emotions, it is very common for teenagers to feel overwhelmed or stressed on a regular basis. UCLA researchers have reported that incoming freshman rates of feeling overwhelmed have increased from 18 percent in 1985 to 29 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2016.  A recent study in Psychological Medicine reported an increase in depression from 2005 to 2015 from 8.7 percent to 12.7 percent for teens 12- to 17-year-olds.

When your teen is overwhelmed it may be very hard for them to access and use their everyday coping skills and reminding them may lead to them feeling more frustrated. The reason being when we are in a state of extreme emotional arousal our brains aren’t functioning properly and we can’t process or access information. It is as if your teen is so overwhelmed by emotions their brain is on pause.

In order for your teen to get past their brain being on pause they need to “reset” it. According to Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) there are some simple skills you can use to kick your parasympathetic nervous system into gear (PNS) which helps to relax us. This skill is referred to by the acronym TIP.

  • Temperature: If your teen changes their temperature it can help them refocus and reset. It helps them feel more grounded. Changing their temperature will instantly slow their nervous system down and help them to relax. They can try running cold water on their forehead or forearms, or back of their necks. Maybe chewing on some ice.
  • Intense Exercise: Always check with your physician before doing any new physical activities to ensure you avoid any injuries. Short, quick and intense bursts of exercise can jolt your teen’s system and help to ground your teen. Quick increases in heart rate help mind/body connect and your teen is better able to calm down. Try jumping jacks, burpees, a quick jog, etc.
  • Paced Breathing: Deep breathing is always a wonderful coping skill. Paced breathing is the opposite of the slow deep breaths you may be used to. In yoga we refer to it as “breath of fire” or “cleaning breath.” You take short breaths in and strong forceful breaths out at a quick pace. Use this for about 15-30 seconds and no longer as it may leave you feeling lightheaded.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: The concept is to focus on one muscle group at a time tensing and releasing each group and notice the difference. You can repeat each muscle group four to six times. As you scan your body, tensing and releasing each muscle group the muscles loosen and relax. This skill can be very relaxing and help connect mind and body. If your teen is struggling to fall asleep this can be a great tool to use before bedtime to help them relax and fall asleep.

These skills will not necessarily stop your teen from feeling distress or discomfort. They can however learn to get through the crisis and whatever made them feel overwhelmed to begin with. Once the intensity has passed they will better be able to access their other DBT skills and begin to problem-solve the situation.

If your teen needs support with managing intense emotions DBT group help. Contact me here to learn more.


Children from toddlers to teens face a variety of problems every day, ranging from

 confusion to emotional crisis. Yet, few children have solid problem-solving skills. Children who lack problem-solving skills are more likely to avoid facing their problems. Rather than putting energy into trying to solve their problems they avoid the situation. That’s why many kids fall behind in school (or stop going all together) or struggle to maintain friendships. This leads to increased crises and decreased responsibility and independence.

Children who lack problem-solving skills often blame others for their problems and expect others to solve the problems for them. That’s why many kids struggle to take responsibility for their own behaviors. As your kids avoid dealing with problems it can lead to an increase in intense emotions and a poor ability to manage them.

Kids who are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless often won’t attempt to solve a problem.  But if you give them tools to understand how to tackle their problems they are more likely to try.

Here are some ways to teach your children problem-solving skills:

  1. Don’t Be A Helicopter Parent.

Whatever age your kids are give them room to make mistakes and find their own way. Give them space and allow them to feel independent from you as they are growing up. This will create a sense of confidence and trust in their own decision making.

  1. Don’t Rescue Your Children

Allow them to experience natural consequences. If they didn’t study for a test, don’t call the school and ask that they be allowed to retake it.  If they spend all their money on one shirt don’t give them extra money.

  1. Ask Solution Focused Questions

Whatever age your kids are asking questions that teach them to come up with solutions teaches problems solving. Try not to rush in and give them answers when they are faced with a problem. Instead try asking…”What are you going to do next?” “How are you going to handle that?” “How can you get that done?” “What will you need for that?” “What did you learn?” “What do you think will happen next?”

  1. Routinely Ask Your Children For Help

Make sure your children understand that you respect their problem-solving skills. Chances are with IT problems your kids know more than you do anyway.


Throughout your child’s life there will always be problems, challenges to face and decisions to make. For more parenting support email me to register for a space in my Parenting Workshop on June 30th or click here for more information.


You may not believe this, but I start hearing about college admission anxiety from 7th or even 6th graders. The pre-teens and teens I work with share that teachers start asking them what they want to do for a living, where they want to go to college and “preparing” them for what they will need to do to achieve these goals. This is well-intended. Teachers want to help kids achieve higher education. However, Gen Y is experiencing this as extreme pressure to decide their future, and believe this requires near perfect grades to achieve it.

Research is showing that Gen Y is quickly becoming America’s most stressed generation. With exam pressures and college admissions anxiety at an all-time high, academic stress can become a daily struggle. According to an Associated Press/MTV survey, school was the most frequentlymentioned source of stress for 13 to 17-year-olds.

Whether it’s parents pushing teenagers to boost their GPA, teachers criticizing them for less-than-stellar test scores, or their own drive to get in to their first-choice college — or some combination of the three.- academic pressure is rising and impacts stress, self-esteem, and mental wellness as a whole.

That’s why it’s important for YOU to learn how to support your teen without adding pressure and more stress.

Here are some ways to help cut down on some of that stress:

1) Stress breeds stress

Teenagers will often say that their parents are more anxious or care more about where they go to college than they do. Or that they don’t get a say because their parents want them to go to _____ School. Remember that your teen can feel your anxiety even when you don’t say anything. As pressure amounts and reactions grow stronger instead of having your teens back you may find yourself harboring frustration, or yelling at your teen. It is important for you to do your own de-stressing. This is an anxiety provoking process for you too. Do your own self-care!

2) Stop Being a Helicopter Parent

I can’t tell how often I hear from my teens that they feel they need to be better for their parents. They feel pressure because their parents are always checking their grades online, looking up application statuses or college admission requirements. STOP checking online. These behaviors come from a good intention in you. As parents you want your children to succeed and you are trying to help. However, the message they get is that you don’t think they can do it on their own. Give them space to find their own way through the process. This takes me to our next skill:

3) Ask If They Need Help

Many parents see their teens stressed and try to fix the problem. This leads to the situation we just discussed (helicopter parenting). What parent wants to see their child in pain? None that I know. But teens don’t want to be fixed;  they want to heard and supported. Ask them what you can do rather than telling them how to do it. Take the time to listen to their stressors. Be a team and come up with a plan together.

4) Be the voice of reason

There may be moments when your teen feels like they are having a breakdown. “I am never going to get this all done.” “I will never get into a good college.” “No place will accept me.” “I am stupid.” Be the voice of reason. Remember that stress breeds stress. Remain calm and remind them they will be okay. There is no perfect college. They will survive the process.

5) Take a Stress Break

Nothing beats taking a break. Remind yourself and your teen that breaks are important. We work better and smarter when we are de-stressed.

Overall, I find that the best way to de-stress is with some laughter and fun. Try and find some humor in the process or in some of your reactions. College prep is the first step children take as they prepare for adulthood. Make it work for you, not against you and give yourself a break!

If your teen needs additional support with dealing with college or academic stress Mindful Healing, LLC can help. To learn more about our services click here or contact us today!